Champions of the giveaway

Brian Jones
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Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) may be the undisputed champs of the natural-resource giveaway, but other provinces also aspire to be world-class chumps.

Across the country, in B.C., companies want to bring in hundreds of people from China to work in coal mines.

The mind reels: is this the news, or is it a late-night comedy skit? You wait for the punch line, but it doesn’t come.

Surely, with an unemployment rate approaching double digits, British Columbia must contain some people willing and able to dig coal.

No, say the companies, defending their need to import qualified and experienced workers.

Giveaways and gullibility seem to go together. If something sounds like nonsense, it usually is. Apparently, among 33 million Canadians, there aren’t 200 qualified miners who need work.

As is commonly the case, other explanations arise: The Canadian Press quoted a union leader who said the average wage for B.C. coal miners is $34 per hour, but the companies plan to pay Chinese workers $25 per hour.

There’s globalization at work.

Crass manipulation

Don’t think for a minute the giveaway days are over in Newfoundland (and especially Labrador). Provincial governments past and current have mastered the skill of giving resources away with their right hand while claiming out of the left side of their mouth they’re not giving anything away. (Watch for jargon such as “efficiency,” “modernize,” “viability” and “restructure,” among others — they are surefire giveaways that a giveaway is about to occur.)

It is entirely understandable that many people in Fortune want the provincial government to agree to Ocean Choice International’s (OCI) demand that it be allowed to ship 75 per cent of its yellowtail flounder catch out of the province to be processed. After all, the remaining 25 per cent will provide jobs for 110 people in Fortune. To deny OCI’s demand seems like telling 110 people they can’t have a job.

It also seems some extremely crass manipulation is going on.

Why must 75 per cent of the yellowtail catch be shipped out for processing? Because OCI says so.

Neither the company nor the provincial government has given a satisfactory explanation, other than the old, reliable utterances about the market and modernizing and restructuring.

Bad news

Anyone who is inclined to accept OCI’s explanation should ponder last week’s news.

Is this not the same OCI whose vice-president, Loyola Sullivan, was deemed to have inappropriately lobbied the federal government?

As reported by The Telegram Oct. 18, conflict of interest and ethics commissioner Mary Dawson determined Sullivan engaged in lobbying within one year of leaving his position as fisheries ambassador, violating federal rules.

The provincial government, rather than acting as OCI’s agent and cheerleader, should demand facts and proof, and show such to the public and, especially, to fisheries workers.

First: how much of that 75 per cent of yellowtail catch could be sold if it is processed in Newfoundland?

Second: is “market forces” merely a euphemism for “OCI profit margins”?

With all due respect to the 110 people who could have jobs if OCI’s demand is acceded to, what should be said to the other 110 people who could also have jobs, but won’t, if 50 per cent of OCI’s yellowtail catch could profitably be processed in Newfoundland, but isn’t?

The Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union has been tricked into a no-win situation. If it rejects OCI’s demand, it is callous; if it agrees, it is a sucker.

The provincial government, meanwhile, has proven yet again its expertise in political manoeuvring and manipulation. It will sign another giveaway, and be cheered for it.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at

The Telegram. He can be reached at

Organizations: Canadian Press, The Telegram, Allied Workers

Geographic location: Newfoundland, China, British Columbia

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Recent comments

  • David
    October 27, 2012 - 12:11

    Newfoundland is champion of sitting oin our colective arses and waiting for some non-Newfoundland ,usually American company to come here and develop our resources. The solutiioon to any perception of "giving them away" is to get off those arses and do smoething with them opursleves....short of that, we take what the market offers. And that is the reality that we have chosen for ourselves. If we are perennial "victims", it is the seed we have sown...or more correctly, not sown.

  • Eli
    October 26, 2012 - 15:52

    Sullivan is playing hanky-pankey for sure but that miniscule yellowtail flounder can't possibly be processed for profit. Too labour intensive! But if it's being exported whole, and I know of a bunch or reasons why, we're entitled to a royalty.

  • Derrick
    October 26, 2012 - 14:44

    If fishing people want to export fish and not use local processing then a royality should be charged per pound as it is a shared resource. IE Taxed at the well head.

    • a business man
      October 26, 2012 - 15:55

      I absolutely agree with you Derrick. If the resource is to processed without local workers, the a royalty should be charged. That said, MY personal opinion is that charging a royalty is better for newfoundland as a whole than is having a local fishery. In essence, I advocate for cutting out the local fishermen and then using the royalty money to improve services that everyone uses, like health care and infrastructure. Yes, the fishermen lose, but everyone else gains as the greater good is served. The fish can be used to benefit a group that is larger than the fishermen.

  • Steamer
    October 26, 2012 - 10:21

    Colin Burke has it right on the money. The fishermen should be allowed to cut out these conniving processors so that they can truly sell to the highest bidder. If a fish plant like Fortune is not viable unless we stoop to these depths for 110 jobs, then those 110 jobs are not worth having. The fishery is a valuable industry, but it is spread too thin and on the verge of collapse if we keep up these reckless practices... In my opinion, the only fish plants in Newfoundland should be co-operatives and if they can't keep themselves afloat, then so be it...

  • Colin Burke
    October 26, 2012 - 09:24

    A fish processor in Newfoundland ought not to ship unprocessed fish out of Newfoundland; if anyone is to do that, it ought to be the fishermen themselves who are selling unprocessed fish in the first place. A processor who wants to process fish elsewhere ought to jolly well set itself up elsewhere and leave Newfoundland quotas in Newfoundland. Anyway, it is the fishermen and not the processors who ought to enjoy having quotas to catch.

  • Cold Future
    October 26, 2012 - 06:57

    No more giveways, except for the minerals, the oil, the fish and the hydroelectric power from Labrador. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Is ir really true that we get less than half the oil royalties than most other jurisdictions in the civilized world?

  • Maurice E. Adams
    October 26, 2012 - 06:55

    And we don't just stop at giving away our resources..... With Muskrat Falls, we will even PAY to give away our energy. And even more, we will even TAKE A LOSS, TAKE A MAJOR LOSS, to give it away. And we will even lock ourselves in to giving it away for 50 years. And we will even lock our children into giving it away. And we will even lock our grandchildren into giving it away -- and even more, we will have them pay Nalcor $21 billion ("AFTER" 2041) to ensure that it continues to be given away --- and to ensure that we cannot, once again, benefit from the Upper Churchill's near-zero cost power --- EVEN AFTER 2041..... And who do you think will then continue to benefit, once again, AFTER 2041?

    • Eli
      October 26, 2012 - 17:23

      Jeeeze, where's the friggin' gun!