Ottawa cool to MOU

Terry Roberts
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Federal minister discusses restructuring strategy with Newfoundland counterpart

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea is applauding an unprecedented effort in this province to strengthen the Newfoundland fishery. But she stops well short of saying the federal government is ready to sign on.

She's quick to point out measures taken by Ottawa in recent years have helped rationalize the harvesting sector, noting there are some 200 fewer enterprises.

The Atlantic Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers met in Halifax Monday. The council includes federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea (seated centre) and the provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for fisheries and aquaculture in Quebec,

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea is applauding an unprecedented effort in this province to strengthen the Newfoundland fishery. But she stops well short of saying the federal government is ready to sign on.

She's quick to point out measures taken by Ottawa in recent years have helped rationalize the harvesting sector, noting there are some 200 fewer enterprises.

She's also hesitant to admit there may be an overcapacity in the harvesting sector, which the federal department regulates. Instead, she wonders if management measures could be taken to eliminate gluts that lead to marketing problems.

It's a further sign that Ottawa may not be eager to fork over millions to support initiatives such as early retirement or licence buyouts.

"I want to point out there has been a rationalization program in place that has worked," Shea told The Telegram Monday, following a day-long conference with provincial fisheries ministers from Atlantic Canada in Halifax.

Shea and Newfoundland Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman met one-on-one for an hour Sunday night. Their discussions were dominated by progress on a memorandum of understanding signed last summer between the province, the fish union and an association of seafood producers.

The federal government has not been part of the process, an exclusion that has raised a few eyebrows, especially since it's believed Ottawa will be asked to pay up to 70 per cent of the cost.

"It probably would have been a good idea to have us at the table. But we can't change that now. We have not been asked for anything. That's why I point out that the federal government has already done a lot for the harvesting sector in Newfoundland," she said. She used the example of the exemption of capital gains taxes for a fisherman who sells his enterprise.

Shea said she was updated on the progress of the MOU, and described it as a work in progress. She was vague when asked if there is a role for the federal government in the process.

"I can't respond to that until there is a specific request," she said. "But I applaud the parties for signing onto the MOU and trying to do something for the industry and make it viable and sustainable."

Jackman acknowledged Monday evening it will be a hard sell to bring the federal government on board. He said it's very important to put forward a proposal that is realistic.

"There's a definite challenge there. But if we develop a strong package and I as a minister don't think I would support anything that would be overly extravagant," Jackman said.

"The thing to do is put our best offer forward and I think that collectively we can do that. It's going to take some strength and commitment on the part of all to give and take a little."

Many of the key players in the Newfoundland industry agree there are serious structural problems in the fishery. For example, there is an overcapacity in the processing sector.

Jackman is not so sure that Ottawa has done enough to address these problems.

"We may have something, but it's not to the degree and expediency by which we need this to happen," he said.

Jackman could not say how much the restructuring process might cost.

He said a financial analysis may be completed by the end of the week.

He said another meeting will take place with Shea at a later date, at which time he'll present a formal proposal on fisheries restructuring.

He said Shea made it clear the federal government was not interested in going back to the types of income assistance programs that were put in place following the closure of the cod fishery in the early 1990s.

"This indicates to me we have to do our due diligence and make sure we have the best possible presentation that we can," Jackman said.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: Ottawa, Newfoundland, Atlantic Canada Halifax

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Recent comments

  • Manny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    The feds are staying out because they have their own self-centered agenda. They always have and it will take a lot to change that. DFO should be held acountable for the collapse of the cod fishery and for its lack of recoverey. It has been 20 years since NL's cod fishery was shut down, with few signs of recovery. They couldn't manage a hen house much less a fishery.

  • Manny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    The feds have control over NL's fishery, not the NL government and certainly not Danny Williams. Take of your black sun glasses!

  • Rick
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Rememeber the old saying, What does it have to do with the price of tea in China? Everything, whether tea, wood or fish.

    Do the math. How many fish plants in NL? Too many for the harvest, and historically all levels of government have created this situation for short term electoral gain. Whether it be forestry for pulp and paper or fishery, we in NL will soon wake up to the reality of world competition and world markets.

    Electronic communication is taking over the paper press, and as we already see Ocean Choice's plans to send our product to China for processing. Competition is where it's at.

    Almagamation is a dirty word in NL but sooner or later the cost of doing business will dictate the need to consolidate reosurces and services.

    Don't be fooled by Ms. Shea's recent visit to China in hope of finding a seal meat market for our seal hunt. She is Mr. Harper's choice for Minister of Fishery, so with respect to her efforts, believe me, there is a Harper plan in action here and other offers of interest to NL. See federal dollars being showcased in the last weeks throughout the island.

    A federal election is on the horizon and Homer Harper needs all the seats he can get because Quebec, with 75 seats, has shutdown his chances of a majority. NL has 7 seats, so the desperate Harper is making every effort to connect to NL.

    Mark your calendar, and be prepared for the post-election amnesia.

    As an aside, the federal Finance Minister is in the news today talking about mortgages. For the record, he is the same man who ran on a harsh law and order platform to replace Mike Harris as leader of the Ontario PC government in 2002. Check the online story: he planned to put an end to homelessness, believe it or not, his plan was to put the homeless in jail and hire (make work) special constables to get them off the streets. He did the math and realized it would cost less to house them in prisons that social housing.

    Ottawa will remain cool to MOU, and border on a deep freeze once they get our votes.

  • Stop the Racket
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Tell us Manny exactly what Danny Boy has done with regard to the fishery.

  • Manny
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    The feds are staying out because they have their own self-centered agenda. They always have and it will take a lot to change that. DFO should be held acountable for the collapse of the cod fishery and for its lack of recoverey. It has been 20 years since NL's cod fishery was shut down, with few signs of recovery. They couldn't manage a hen house much less a fishery.

  • Manny
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    The feds have control over NL's fishery, not the NL government and certainly not Danny Williams. Take of your black sun glasses!

  • Rick
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    Rememeber the old saying, What does it have to do with the price of tea in China? Everything, whether tea, wood or fish.

    Do the math. How many fish plants in NL? Too many for the harvest, and historically all levels of government have created this situation for short term electoral gain. Whether it be forestry for pulp and paper or fishery, we in NL will soon wake up to the reality of world competition and world markets.

    Electronic communication is taking over the paper press, and as we already see Ocean Choice's plans to send our product to China for processing. Competition is where it's at.

    Almagamation is a dirty word in NL but sooner or later the cost of doing business will dictate the need to consolidate reosurces and services.

    Don't be fooled by Ms. Shea's recent visit to China in hope of finding a seal meat market for our seal hunt. She is Mr. Harper's choice for Minister of Fishery, so with respect to her efforts, believe me, there is a Harper plan in action here and other offers of interest to NL. See federal dollars being showcased in the last weeks throughout the island.

    A federal election is on the horizon and Homer Harper needs all the seats he can get because Quebec, with 75 seats, has shutdown his chances of a majority. NL has 7 seats, so the desperate Harper is making every effort to connect to NL.

    Mark your calendar, and be prepared for the post-election amnesia.

    As an aside, the federal Finance Minister is in the news today talking about mortgages. For the record, he is the same man who ran on a harsh law and order platform to replace Mike Harris as leader of the Ontario PC government in 2002. Check the online story: he planned to put an end to homelessness, believe it or not, his plan was to put the homeless in jail and hire (make work) special constables to get them off the streets. He did the math and realized it would cost less to house them in prisons that social housing.

    Ottawa will remain cool to MOU, and border on a deep freeze once they get our votes.

  • Stop the Racket
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    Tell us Manny exactly what Danny Boy has done with regard to the fishery.