No access to OCI contract

James McLeod
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MHA wants details of deal

Jim Bennett — File Photo

Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett is continuing to push for details of a deal signed between the provincial government and Ocean Choice International (OCI) five years ago.

Bennett told The Telegram he believes the Fishery Product International (FPI) Implementation Agreement, which has never been released publicly, could allow the government to take control of the shuttered Marystown fish plant and associated redfish and yellowtail flounder quotas.

“The government needs to hold their feet to the fire, and I think it’s my job to hold the government’s feet to the fire, until they do the right thing,” Bennett said.

In 2007, parts of FPI were sold by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to OCI.

The FPI Implementation Agreement was never publicized, but government news releases at the time give some indication of what might be in the agreement.

According to a news release from 2007, OCI would be required to keep employment levels at the Marystown fish plant between 400-500 year-round workers.

That didn’t happen.

“The agreement carries some fairly significant financial — I won’t call them penalties, I’ll call them disincentives. It says $2-$5 million for closing down a plant,” Bennett said.

“It says depending on size, and Marystown is by far the biggest plant, so you would have to conclude that Marystown is the one that the $5 million would apply to.”

On Monday morning, in a letter to Fisheries Minister Darin King, Bennett was also asking about a provision in the 2007 news release saying that a “compliance evaluation panel” would be created to make sure OCI was following the terms of the contract.

In statements to The Telegram, King has repeatedly said OCI is not in violation of any part of the agreement. An independent audit by Deloitte has apparently confirmed this, although the full audit has never been released publicly.

A spokesman for the Department of Fisheries said the panel does meet, but it’s job is just to make sure OCI is properly landing fish in Newfoundland.

Fisheries union president Earle McCurdy confirmed the evaluation panel has a narrow mandate.

“All the panel was ever set up for was to be a forum if there was an allegation that they hadn’t landed in the province. It was a really, really limited role,” McCurdy said.

McCurdy also lamented the fact that they’ve never been able to see the FPI Implementation Agreement either.

“The company has claimed to have met (it’s obligations), for the life of me, I can’t see it,” he said. “How do you get to the bottom of it when the documents are kept secret?” Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: OCI, FPI, The Telegram Department of Fisheries Newfoundland.Fisheries union

Geographic location: Marystown, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Charles
    January 17, 2012 - 17:28

    People of Marystown and Port Union, on Jan 15/2012, Mr Jim Bennett make a posting telling everyone that the Liberal Party of NL, Got a plan concerning the fishery, And that plan inclue Marystown and Port Union, Mr Bennett also said he COMMUNICATED IT TO MINISTER FISHERIES, Mr King. Now get after Mr Bennett and Mr King,To put this plan into action,Or was it just Mr Bennett BLOWING WIND.

  • Randy
    January 17, 2012 - 10:02

    I would like too see the contents of this contract ..Why is the government always trying to hide information from the peaple all the time.? All i know is that a very powerfull finance minister sat in cabinet at the time FPI was signed over to OCI,know being run by his family. Let's come clean Ms Dunderdale and show us the agreement

  • response to maurice e adams
    January 17, 2012 - 08:31

    yes, something doesn't make sense. The wages demanded by unskilled workers. The fish should be processed by foreigners, offshore, so that Canadians get a efficiently produced product. Higher wages for employees, as well as pensions and health benefits drive up the cost of production which leads to increased prices. I welcome the offshoring and foreigners if it keeps costs down. It does not matter WHO processes the fish, as long as it gets processed

    • Casey
      January 17, 2012 - 12:32

      Who do you work for? OCI?

  • Maurice E. Adams
    January 17, 2012 - 07:22

    On the one hand processors and government argue that we have too many (small) plants, that they need to be rationalized into fewer, larger plants. Here we have our most modern, largest plant and OCI says they cannot operate it viably because it is too big and too expense to operate. Something doesn't make sense.