On the eve of the cod moratorium’s 20th anniversary, the MP for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl doesn’t think the provincial Tories have shown enough leadership on fisheries matters.
“I think of all the wonderful things Danny Williams did. He didn’t know rural Newfoundland and Labrador and he did not know the fishery,” federal New Democrat Ryan Cleary said.
“If he had to (have) champion(ed) the fishery like he did oil and gas, we would have seen headway. Under this (Kathy) Dunderdale adminstration, I’m also not seeing leadership in terms of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, the fishery.”
Cleary, a former journalist who covered the cod closure for The Telegram in 1992, made the comments during an interview for “Taking Stock,” this paper’s upcoming, six-part series on what’s happened in the province since the moratorium.
Fisheries Minister Darin King, a former member of Williams’ cabinet, said Cleary’s remarks are off base.
In an email, he said the province continues to make strategic investments in support of the sustainability and competitiveness of the fishing industry, particularly in science, innovation, and trade and market development.
The minister noted this year’s budget includes investments totalling more than $30 million in support of fishing and aquaculture.
“Furthermore,” King stated, “our government invests more into the fishery annually than all Atlantic provinces combined. With all due respect to Mr. Cleary, this is a clear sign of our government’s leadership.”
Meanwhile, Cleary will mark the 20th anniversary of the moratorium in the place where he heard the news firsthand: Salon B at the Delta St. John’s.
He has rented the room, where former federal fisheries minister John Crosbie closed the northern cod fishery, for a July 2 event.
“Empty Nets we’re calling it,” Cleary said of next Monday afternoon’s event.
Cleary, who will speak around
1 p.m., hopes to send a message that the province and its people must take ownership of the fishery.
“We need a game plan for the future, a game plan that will in the end make sure we have control of the fish stocks, that we have a recovery plan, that we have a new economic model for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
He booked the same room last year when announcing a private members bill for an inquiry into the fishery.
March to Harbourside Park
Following the event at the hotel, there’ll be a march to Harbourside Park.
Those who take part will get something to wear on their lapels.
“It’s a small piece of net, and in the background, are three ribbons — pink, white and green,” Cleary said.
The net is symbolic of an empty net, while the ribbons represent “the new attitude in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Cleary believes that confidence can be harnessed to cure some of the problems with the fishery.
“There’s something wonderful and special about Newfoundland and Labrador, but if we lose the fishery, if we lose the basis of our culture and our heritage, I think we’ll be lost.”
The Telegram’s six-part series on the moratorium starts Thursday.