No one is winning

Staff ~ The Telegram
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Maybe it was the delivery, the kind of low-key manner that provincial Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Clyde Jackman uses when he talks to the media, that made the sentence stand out so much, that made it seem so ominous.

He said it in an interview with The Telegram, and then he said the exact same words in a studio interview with NTV, so it must be a line of prepared talking points, the singular message that the provincial government is trying hard to send out to people in this province.

Maybe it was the delivery, the kind of low-key manner that provincial Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Clyde Jackman uses when he talks to the media, that made the sentence stand out so much, that made it seem so ominous.

He said it in an interview with The Telegram, and then he said the exact same words in a studio interview with NTV, so it must be a line of prepared talking points, the singular message that the provincial government is trying hard to send out to people in this province.

He was talking about twin financial reviews being undertaken in the fishing industry - one of fish harvesters, done by Deloitte, the other by Grant Thorton, which looked at fish processors.

The message that Jackman stuck to?

"The one thing that they have indicated is that both sectors, harvesting and processing, many of the operations are not viable in the present circumstances."

Now, reading governments isn't exactly like reading tea leaves. In the modern world of planned communications strategies and staying on message, you can be sure that a key point - carefully delivered and re-delivered - is meant to play a deliberate part in framing a government's eventual position. And the message is pretty clear: there is no simple clear-cut profiteering bad guy, and the government's going to make the pitch that everybody's going to have to be involved in the solutions, if there are solutions to be had.

Generally, everyone likes to assume that someone is making a living at the fishery, usually at someone else's expense. Harvesters claim processors are trying to squeeze them out of the business, and processors claim that they're being asked to pay so much for raw materials that they can't recover their costs. If that were in fact true, the fixes would be a lot easier: if the processors were getting rich on the backs of the harvesters, the provincial government could work on a mechanism to tilt the scales.

But with two separate fiscal studies of harvesters and processors - both based on internal financial information and both apparently showing the respective businesses to not be viable - the problem is considerably more complicated.

It leaves an overriding issue, though.

If there is so much question about the year-to-year viability of both processors and harvesters in a billion-dollar-a-year industry, why is the MOU process dragging on so long? It has been over a year, and the process is still talking about working groups and steering committees.

More to the point, the groups working towards the MOU have been given until September to solve a tremendously complex problem. The tricky part will be finding a solution that will meet the dire financial needs of both sides - and that will be workable enough for both the federal and provincial governments to see as workable enough to invest in. Hard work on all sides.

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  • Maurice E.
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    If some processors and harvestors are on shakey finanancial ground -- prehaps, just perhaps, instead of more rationalization being the answer --- it seems more likely that since rationalization has been happening for the past 20 years, that it is more likely that that policy is a big part of the problem. Too much borrowing so as to get a bigger piece of the processing pire, and too much borrowing by harvestors so that they could have a bigger entreprise and take over more quotas. Both sectors are 'over captialized , over extended based on a flawed policy that 'rationalization --- getting bigger will solve the problem. Yes part of the real problem is this mis-guided, greed based, policy itself. How about doing more value added processing? Didn't I read recently in a Business Post article that OCI had no interest in the marketing arm of Fisheries Products becaues about 90% of their product undergoes primary processing only? Buy quick, do minimum processing, sell quick --- and make quick, easy bucks. What kind of business plan is that? What is that doing for rural communities? plant workers? diversifing the processors marketing/profits potential? The numbers show it. Over the last 20 years the value added component of the fishery has gone down from near 60% of the total production value of the fishery to 47%. STOP this rape of the raw resource, and STOP this continuing flawed (from a rural community, small boast fishery perspective) policy of BIGGER is better --- when it means over capitalization, exposure to foreign lenders, exposure to foreign take over, exposure to processors over taking the harvestors, exposure in increased costs, and more and more need for quick bucks in order to keep their head above water. Insanity, they say, is when you keep doing the same thng over and over with the same result. Well it is time to stop this foolishness about rationalization solving the problems in the fisher. TAKE NOTE ---- rationalization is part of the problem.

  • Eli
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Take a ride around the coast of Newfoundland and take note of the big expensive fishing vessels aquired since the moratorium. Insanity comes to mind.

  • golfball
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    what is the cost of these 2 contracts with these accounting firms ?