Politicians are all looking to show their support for the seal industry in Ottawa today.
MPs in the House of Commons will be wearing sealskin attire, or sealskin lapel pins to show their support, and an array of politicians will be holding an event in the foyer of the parliament building before Question Period this afternoon.
The government issued a joint statement, saying “Sealing is an important economic and cultural driver in Canada’s eastern, arctic and northern communities. It is a long-standing and integral part of Canada’s rural culture and a way of life for thousands of Canadians.”
The event comes on the heels of fresh controversy in the industry, after NDP MP Ryan Cleary suggested that a lack of markets may force sealers to give up the hunt.
More coverage later and in Friday’s print edition.
Newfoundland NDP MP Ryan Cleary’s fashion statements seem to be closely tied to his political statements lately.
Cleary was recently photographed sporting a borrowed sealskin vest to an interview about the seal hunt. At the time the St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP vowed he’d support the hunt by making a sealskin purchase of his own — as soon as he could afford it.
Cleary now reports he’s not only the owner of two sealskin ties, but he’s started taking orders from other NDP MPs for sealskin accessories of their own.
Cleary was sporting one of his new ties Wednesday when he stood in the House of Commons and accused the federal Conservatives of failing the Canadian sealing industry.
The MP’s statement was blunt, calling the government’s efforts to support the seal hunt “a joke,” and blaming inaction on its part for the collapse of what markets had been open to sealers.
But Cleary said during a followup interview there’s nothing funny about the situation the seal industry is in.
“Under this Conservative regime we’ve seen the markets for our seal products just wither and die,” he said.
Both the European Union and the Russian Federation, which made up a large portion of the market for sealers, have passed seal product import bans in recent years. Cleary is calling out the federal Conservatives for not doing enough to fight the bans.
“The Conservatives had an opportunity to take on the European Union during free trade talks — to bring the seal ban issue up then. They didn’t. They had an opportunity to take on the Russians on the seal ban — the Prime Minister had an opportunity to meet with (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin for example. He didn’t,” said Cleary.
“The reality of the situation is that the markets have been closed under the Conservatives’ watch.”
Wednesday marked Cleary’s most recent outing in the media talking about the seal industry. The former journalist is a long-standing proponent of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery, but recently landed himself in political hot water after making comments in a CBC interview during which he questioned if there is an economic future for the hunt.
Representatives with the sealing industry and politicians alike jumped on the comments, including Labrador Conservative MP Peter Penashue.
“I think Ryan Cleary and the NDP have done a lot of damage to the sealing industry,” Penashue told The Telegram.
Penashue went on to say Cleary “put back the sealing industry 10 years with one comment.”
This province’s sole representative in the federal cabinet also dismissed Cleary’s comments on Wednesday.
“MP Ryan Cleary’s hypocritical comments know no bounds. Today, MP Cleary stood up questioning the commitment of the Harper government to the sealing industry. He even gave mention to the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), the very organization that stands against Newfoundlanders and Labradorians’ way of life, and the very organization that uses Mr. Cleary’s remarks as ammunition against our seal industry,” Penashue said in a statement.
“In his apparent new spokesperson role for these anti-sealing groups, MP Cleary only knows how to criticize, only knows how to offer unhelpful comments and only knows how to stand against Newfoundland and Labrador. Unlike the NDP, our Conservative government is committed to standing up for the sealing industry here at home and on the world stage,” he added.
The Conservative government also appears to be preparing to prove that point.
An event called Seal Day on the Hill is happening on Parliament Hill in Ottawa today before question period.
Federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield has invited all MPs to attend and show their support for the seal hunt. Ashfield even issued a statement saying lapels made from seal fur would be available for MPs to wear.
“Sealing is an important economic and cultural driver in Canada’s eastern, Arctic and Northern communities,” the New Brunswick MP said in a statement.
Conservative MPs from across the country, including Penashue, are scheduled to attend, as is Ashfield’s provincial counterpart, Fisheries Minister Darin King.
Liberal MHA Yvonne Jones also issued a statement saying she would represent her party at the event.
But Cleary questioned the usefulness of such an rally.
“They can have all the rallies they want on Parliament Hill, but the bottom line is under this Conservative regime our markets have been lost to us,” he said.
When asked if he planned to attend Seal Day on the Hill Cleary said he could not as he was already scheduled to fly back to his riding. But he did extend his offer of securing sealskin ties for MPs to his Conservative and Liberal counterparts.
“If the Liberals and Conservatives would like one, I extend the invitation. They want a seal tie? Absolutely,” he said.