Few fireworks at fisheries forum

Dave Bartlett
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Candidates agree more political co-operation needed

There’s nothing like an election to stoke the partisan fires, or so you would think.

At a candidates forum Monday evening, hosted by the Fisheries Community Alliance, there were few political barbs, little partisan rhetoric and a whole lot of nodding from the other candidates as their political adversaries took turns answering questions on the fishery.

The alliance asked three parties to send one candidate running in the province in the May 2 federal election to answer its questions and take more from the public.

Liberal Gerry Byrne, who’s running in Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, Ryan Cleary, the NDP’s man in St. John’s South Mount Pearl, and Avalon Conservative Fabian Manning didn’t agree on everything, but the tone of the evening remained civil. Former Fisheries Broadcast host Jim Winter moderated the event.

Fisheries advocate Gus Etchegary made a few opening remarks on behalf of the alliance, and foreshadowed what was to come.

“There’s one thing for sure,” he said “I know these people very well, and I know they’re just as concerned as all of us with the situation that Newfoundland and Labrador’s fishing industry (is in) and I’m certain these men will do everything they possibly can to try and turn things around.”

The alliance posed six questions to the candidates, and provided them in advance of the forum. Topics ranged from fisheries management, science, foreign influences and the idea of a judicial inquiry of the entire industry as it relates to this province.

Cleary has been pushing for an inquiry and repeated the NDP’s support for it was a condition of him running for the party.

“The fishery must be rebuilt. But we can’t rebuild without all the facts,” he said. “The New Democrats support a judicial inquiry as the way to establish a baseline of information so we can start making decisions and (move) forward.”

Manning and Byrne didn’t say they were in favour, but both agreed the idea had merit.

“I’m not, at this point, sold on a judicial inquiry,” said Manning. “I’m not convinced that a judicial inquiry will solve the issues at hand.”

But Manning said he is open to discussing the idea.

Byrne echoed that sentiment but noted inquiries have their own set of problems.

“Judicial inquiries can take up to three years, they can cost $12 to $15 million to conduct,” Byrne said.

On top of that, Byrne noted, inquiries let the government of the day off the hook, as ministers can dodge questions by telling people they are waiting for the inquiry to wrap up before answering.

As the candidates made their closing statements, each agreed the fishery is broken, and suggested the fix is in working together instead of being partisan.

A little politics did creep in.

Cleary said he had no intention of arguing with the other candidates during the forum.

“I thought that would be counterproductive,” he said. “I know they are good Newfoundlanders ... despite their politics.”

Manning spoke of co-operation.

”I don’t pretend to have all the answers. What I do have is a desire to make things work. And hopefully on Monday I’ll get that opportunity to do that again in the House of Commons.”

Byrne said there have been too few debates on the actual issues like the fishery during the campaign.

“Fisheries are the backbone of our economy and if we try to pretend anything else we are deceiving ourselves and our province,” he said. “If we don’t work together, if we just choose to bicker ... if we choose to talk about each other instead of to each other, we will fail.”

 

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: NDP, Fisheries Community Alliance, House of Commons

Geographic location: Humber, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Harvey Jackman
    April 26, 2011 - 13:27

    Perhaps an inquiry would be alright...costing millions of dollars!!!But nothing will be alright as long as foreign and Canadian trawlers are still raping the dwindling stocks.When will any federal government get it through its head that this is the main reason for problems with our fishery??We have had a moratorium for 19 years and still no significant recovery...if any!!!If it were not so sad, one could write a comic strip about what our own politicians are constantly regurgitating about the life blood of our province!!!

  • palmgirl
    April 26, 2011 - 09:46

    to comment on "TaxPayer's" comment. Umm I believe it was Scott Andrew who was the MP for the last 2 years not Manning. Why didn't he do anything if he is so concerned?????? Oh thats right you have to actually show up to accomplish something! Seriously, blaming Fabian is just PATHETIC!!

  • Taxpayer
    April 26, 2011 - 08:27

    Manning said they were open to the idea of an enquiry. What was this crowd in power for the last five years doing? When you are in power you do something not sit around and draw a pay cheque. Looks like Manning is not the answer. And if the people of Newfoundland don't understand this then they are the ones who are going to pay the price.

  • John
    April 26, 2011 - 08:22

    How refreshing to hear candidates from different parties in constructive discussion rather than the new political mud slinging method. All strike me as solid Newfoundlanders. As for Gerry Byrne, I used to live in his riding and he always made the voting choice very easy. I forsee an easy win for him again. I presently live in Ryan Cleary's riding and cannot help but feel that he is the man for the job. Finally, as for Fabian, you have to respect a man that chooses to give up a set and very high salary for life to try and gain the support of his fellow Newfoundlanders. Good on him.

  • Casey
    April 26, 2011 - 07:29

    Yes, an inquiry should be called. Tens of thousands of people were put out of work and the world's greatest natural food supply has been almost wiped out. The people of the outports have left by the hundreds. Outport NL has never recovered. To add insult to injury, DFO had been warned for years that there was a problem with the cod stocks. You can be sure Manning and the CONS will never want an inquiry, because the corruption and incompetence in Ottawa just might see the light of day. The Liberals pretty much the same. Why have the stocks not recovered, with NL's cod fishery almost non-existent for 20 years? Sure the seals are a factor, but let's not forget the foreign boats offshore continuing to overfish. Given the wide spread effects of this fishery collapse, there should have been an inquiry years ago. Ottawa is as much to blame for this as NAFO, if not more so. NLers need to rise up and demand answers, Ottawa sold you out, and your taking it lying down!