‘Shut up and give us our money back’

Brian Jones
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The über-patriots might be right that Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) are the toughest people ever to walk the planet or float upon its waters.

As über-patriots are fond of saying, we’ve had more than 500 years to hone our toughness as the salt of the earth and the brine of the sea, what with five centuries of being exploited and bullied by fishing admirals, merchants and Tory cabinet ministers.

But a reputation for being tough can backfire — as Goliath found out. If toughness evolves into an ability to live with injustice, it simply becomes obedience.

Those of us who thought the political scene would calm down when Danny Williams left the premier’s office in the Confederation Building to become a hockey czar at Mile One Centre must admit we were wrong. All that has happened is that Williams’ pigheadedness (and that isn’t entirely a criticism) and short temper has been replaced with an utter and thorough contempt.

Toughness and contempt can be a bad combination. Newfoundland­ers, Labradorians and über-patriots alike are being governed by a band of contemptuous bullies.

Fisheries Minister Darin King’s tantrum this week against the Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ (FFAW) union is the latest example of this government’s extremely bad behaviour.

FFAW President Earle McCurdy suggested this week the provincial government should speak out against the federal government’s apparent plan to allow fishing companies to get involved in the inshore fishery. The current policy — somewhat euphemistically referred to as “fleet separation” — helps ensure the survival of an inshore fishery.

The FFAW’s gall in making this request was met with King’s sudden announcement that the provincial government will cut or withhold the $1.3 million it spends on FFAW programs.

In keeping with King’s professional background in education, let’s take a multiple-choice approach. King’s actions are: (a) punitive; (b) vindictive; (c) callously petty; (d) authoritarian.

Part 2: in 25 words or less, describe King’s understanding of the concept of “freedom of speech.”

This is a bad precedent. The Newfoundland electorate has been put on notice and has been warned: disagree with the government at your peril.

Open and free discussion about important issues is no longer allowed.

King’s actions demonstrate his tenuous grasp of the concept of democracy, and reveal his ideological approach to the problems in the fishery — the latter of which has been a plague on this province for decades.

The FFAW only stated the obvious. If you want a healthy, long-term fishery, the way to accomplish it is to establish a strong inshore fishery.

This is not a new or revelatory statement.

Leslie Harris said as much in his report on northern cod more than 20 years ago.

Many people have been saying it since the cod moratorium was declared in 1992.

In contrast, governmental policy at both the federal and provincial levels centres on “efficiency” (read: technology), which will ensure that sometime during our lifetimes, we will see the headline, “Cod fishery no longer economically viable.”

It is such hubris. King and his boss, Premier Kathy Dunderdale, and their political mentor, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seem to think they know more than Leslie Harris did about the cod fishery.

These days, suggesting differently will entail not only a public lashing by the minister in charge, but a pulling of government funding.

Some people have said the FFAW shouldn’t get government money anyway. Initial news reports didn’t give details about the FFAW “programs” that would be cut, but a good bet would be that some involve training and safety.

To hear King, you’d think the government was paying for FFAW members’ busfare so they could attend protest rallies in Marystown.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Marystown.Brian Jones

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Recent comments

  • Ed Power
    March 02, 2012 - 17:25

    On one side we have a Union representing the people who actually get their hands dirty catching and processing fish, the people who go out on the water in all kinds of weather to make a living, the people who know the difference between a cod and a caplin and, on the other side, a school teacher/education bureaucrat. People who have a lifetime of experience, or someone seeking to pad his leadership credentials? Hmmmmm, now who, I wonder, would have some knowledge of fisheries issues.........

  • Maurice E. Adams
    March 02, 2012 - 10:35

    Except it probably won't be a boondoggle for some of those who helped put this scheme together and by using our own tax dollars to then keep gouging ratepayers, especially our children and grandchildren, for the next 50 and more years. Our children and grandchildren will be paying up to 7 times more for Muskrat Falls power than they should be IF it were financed as you would your mortgage. But they can't do that because the power is too expensive, so they changed the payments, spread them over 50+ years and will charge our children and grandchildren the diiference.

  • Maggy Carter
    March 02, 2012 - 08:57

    And Pop Goes that Weasel, John Smith, again. Government's campaign of disinformation and deception on Muskrat has worked so well, that it has expanded Smitty's daily diatribe to include any criticism of government whatsoever. King and the rest of the monarchy on Confederation Hill have taken to the use of sleaze, skullduggery and thuggery to silence their critics. Pulling public funds out from under not-for-profit groups is a timeless weapon for stifling dissent. But this crowd has gone one step further, maligning its critics in the media with anonymous cretins like John Smith. This smarmy crackie lackey with government's hand shoved up his puppet hole can now spew government bile better than a gaggle of official spokespersons. Whenever there is a column, a story, or online comment that dares question government policy or behaviour, up jumps Smitty with his hakapik. When the talking points aren't working any more, Smitty resorts to character assassination. But con jobs like this don't stay under wraps forever. Just look at Harper squirm now that the story of how his goon squad helped steal an election has started to emerge. A day will come when the real story will be told on how government conned the public on a $10 billion dollar boondoggle in Labrador.

  • John Smith
    March 02, 2012 - 07:27

    Funny, I thoght it was Mr. Jones, and his never ending attacks on government that were a) Punitive b)Vindictive c) callous petty d) authoritarian...

    • Steve Winslow
      March 02, 2012 - 08:13

      John John John. . . It's charming to see you ignore the fact that this is not the first time that (Dr.) King decided to jump the gun and overreact to criticism. I'm sure if he could have suspended McCurdy without pay he would have. See here: http://www.thetelegram.com/Opinion/Letters%20to%20the%20editor/2012-03-02/article-2913697/The-ministers-mistakes/1

    • tony.howell
      March 06, 2012 - 07:56

      this battle between the union and the minister is just silly. Actually the whole fishery is silly. Hey, here is the solution let be resolve that from now on we will catch/ and or process fish by the means in which we incurr the least cost. Just like every other business I can think of ! treat it lke a business not a social program !