Oil, aquaculture potential trump coastal conservation: Hedderson

James McLeod
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Southwest coast marine park would create fewer jobs, minister says

Environment Minister Tom Hedderson says he doesn’t need a government study to see that the southwest coast of the province would be a perfect candidate to establish a marine conservation area

Tom Hedderson

But it’s not going to happen, because the provincial government has other hopes for that part of the province.

Parks Canada had offered to pay for a feasibility study to look at the possibility of setting up a marine conservation area

in the waters off the southwest coast,

but it needed the go-ahead from the province.

But Hedderson said the government turned down the offer because it has high hopes for oil and gas exploration, aquaculture and fishing in that neck of the woods.

“Why then would we do Step 1 of a process to go down that road (towards a marine conservation area) and build up expectations?” Hedderson said.

“Once we give it over to the feds, it’s like any of the parks. You’ve given it over to them, and they then have total control over that piece of geography.”

In that part of the province, communities are desperate for any sort of economic boost. Burgeo mayor Gerald MacDonald said one of the big reasons for pursuing the marine conservation area was that it would likely bring 25-30 jobs and, hopefully, some tourists.

But Hedderson said the government has its sights set on bigger goals.

“Aquaculture could be 125 jobs. Hydrocarbon development down there could be hundreds of jobs,” he said.

“Do you want us to say, ‘OK, go ahead with that,’ and get 25 jobs? And in the future have to say, ‘Gee whiz, I wish we hadn’t done that.’”

But at the same time, Hedderson couldn’t point to any specific work being done in aquaculture or oil and gas or anything else on the southwest coast.

“Like any other part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, we certainly encourage business to set up in various areas, and we’re constantly indicating that there’s lots of opportunity,” Hedderson said. “And there’s lots of opportunity in that particular area, and hopefully somewhere along the way there will be some exploration done that could open up that situation.”

That likely won’t do much to satisfy MacDonald.

When he spoke to The Telegram, he said the government really needs to take action.

“What I’m saying to the government is look, you’ve got to do something,” he said. “You’ve either got to give us the green light with the marine conservation area, or you’ve got to put some other sort of employment in the community.”

Part of the consternation for Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons and other advocates for the marine conservation area is that the government seemingly turned down the proposal in February 2012, and then didn’t tell anybody for almost a year.

Hedderson said that was a mistake, but it wasn’t deliberate.

He said when he found out about it, he got in touch with Parsons and other interested parties.

“It was more of an internal review and decision-making, and that for some reason or another, it was not communicated,” he said. “I certainly made my apologies and corrected that, and said on a go-forward basis, I’d try to make sure that my department was more responsive in matters such as these.”

For now, Hedderson said he’s not making any promises that there’ll be a big aquaculture development or oil exploration any time soon, but he’s happier to leave that door open.

“There might not be a significant opportunity come by for another two years, three years — I have no idea,” he said.

Organizations: Parks Canada

Geographic location: Burgeo, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Jack
    September 19, 2013 - 11:57

    With the possible sale and closure of the Come By Chance refinery, why would there be a need for greater oil exploration in Newfoundland's south coast when we face the prospect of no longer having a refinery? In other words, Tom Hedderson is not doing very well in the thinking department since you can extract oil unless you have the facilities to process it.

  • Graham
    September 19, 2013 - 11:24

    Just in time for the next election is my guess. Big announcements big promises none of which will ever be kept. ABPC in 2015. That's a promise I will keep.

  • Strickland
    September 19, 2013 - 09:56

    The position taken by Minister Hedderson is not about the Southwest coast exclusively. His rationale fits in with the view that supports fracking in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the West Coast. You can't protect one area and then exploit another in coastal waters of the same Province. This is all about the fracking issue and nothing more.

  • Randy
    September 19, 2013 - 08:58

    Seems like McLeod has a man crush on Parsons. About 1/2 of his stories have him gushing over Parsons.

  • Jack
    September 19, 2013 - 08:53

    Maybe Tom Hedderson has hidden ties to big oil, mineral, and natural resource based companies, which is why he rejected plans to turn Newfoundland's South Coast into a marine park. Just as politicians and heads of major government agencies in the United States are well known for having ties to major corporations, especially the food industry, we are now seeing the same thing in Newfoundland and Labrador where you have an Environment Minister like Tom Hedderson whom is supposed to be a champion of the Environment but ends up being a champion for big oil. Don't see to watch the documentary, Food Inc., and how Monsanto has ties to the American Government to know what I'm talking about.

  • Willi Makit
    September 19, 2013 - 07:57

    So the minster would like to pass on a conservation area so they can (potentially), pay aquaculture operations from elsewhere to destroy our ocean environment, grow diseased fish that depend on heavy subsidy with public dollars. Very forward thinking! It's no wonder this government is so popular with the electorate!