Policy is killing the outports

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As I write this, I am momentarily distracted by three sea otters playing in the blue water surrounding my fishing stage, but only momentarily, as my thoughts on this beautiful spring morning are with the people of Jackson’s Arm, Salvage and other fishing villages around the province who have recently received the news that their fish plant has been sold; not to be reopened under new ownership, but to be closed, perhaps forever.

I can empathize with the ache that must be in the hearts of those people; the uncertainty of the future — having to tear up roots that have been firmly planted for generations. Families torn asunder and hearts broken at having to leave children and grandchildren evokes painful images of the resettlement program — one of the darkest chapters in our history.

To quote the government: “This is just the reality of change caused by market forces in the industry.”

If indeed I thought this to be the case, I would not be taking time to write this morning. In my mind what is happening in the fishery and the tragedy of our coastal villages is the result of government policy influenced by corporate forces intended to consolidate the wealth of the oceans in the hands of a very few individuals, who care nothing for anybody or anything other than themselves.

If this is not the case, I challenge the premier and her cabinet to, as Ronald Regan famously said, “Tear down those walls!” The walls I refer to are the walls of protectionism that solidifies and protects the monopoly of the Newfoundland fish merchants and denies the very basis of democracy in the fishery- competition and a free market.

 I challenge the government, for the sake of the people and their own personal legacy, to send a clear message far and wide — Newfoundland is open for business. Have an idea for a small processing facility for which you are willing to take the financial risk, then we welcome you!

The government is handcuffed by the power of the fish merchants’ association, and must obtain their permission for every move, whether attempting to find new markets, allow fishermen to temporarily sell herring or sea urchins to Maritime buyers.

This is not hearsay — this is fact and is a disgusting abdication of power of our elected representatives to heads of corporations.

I am aware that government officials are sick and tired of hearing from me on this issue, and I am sick and tired of writing, but until the winds of free enterprise and democracy are allowed in the fishery as in other areas of enterprise in this province, I shall have no choice but to fight for freedom, as did my forefathers who fought for freedom in the mud and muck of Vimy and Dieppe.

Mr. Minister: stand tall for your proud outport people and tear down those walls that are the prison of hope for our coastal villages.


David Boyd writes from Twillingate.

Geographic location: Jackson, Newfoundland, Twillingate

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Recent comments

  • City Born Citizen
    March 12, 2013 - 09:27

    Only those who live in the out-port communities actually care about what is going on. The rest of the, AKA the majority, are happy to see the government use the fish to accommodate some other move. The rest of us, AKA the majority, do not get any benefit from the fish, but we do get a benefit when the fish is used to garner trade contracts....we get a benefit by cheaper goods and increased business opportunities.

  • BI
    March 11, 2013 - 11:55

    Policy for Government should be revised or the polls will go lower and lower - Another tradegy in these crab plants being closed down; along with the fact that the present employer did not respect their workers enough to advise them in advance of this closure; is the fact that the Government has approved 50 work visa for people from Thailand to go to Quinlans in Bay de Verde and work this summer. My opinion is that the government needs to step in now; and cancel these foreign workers, so that the people of Hants Harbour and surrounding areas can take these jobs. I know that the people of Thailand need the work as well, and they were available last year to come in and bail out Quinlans; however, charity now begins at home with all the people out of work in the surrounding areas from other crab plant closures - does anyone agree with me on this matter???????????

  • a business man
    March 11, 2013 - 10:37

    Certainly, it is policy that is killing the outports. However, I support policies that kill the outports because I get no benefit from the outports. If the outports die, then the people will have to move to the city, or to Alberta. Either way, it MIGHT mean more customers for me, so I therefore completely and wholeheartedly support the death of the outports and the policies that are killing the outports. I state this as my opinion as a citizen, taxpayer and voter. Have a nice day!

  • david
    March 11, 2013 - 09:59

    Outports are only dying now becasue they have been prevented from dying for decades now. It is simply not feasible or sensible or justifiable to prop up a way of life with public money for eternity. It is bankrupting us all, it diverts people's efforts from makinf choices and acting in their own best interests, and most basic of all, it cannot possibly work. Give up with the misplaced nostalgia and start living a real life in the real world. It isn't as awful as you think.

  • Ken Collis
    March 11, 2013 - 09:39

    Premier Dunderdale said that Fishers must 'sink or swim' on their own merits. No government assistance will be available to help save a failing fishing enterprise. The market must prevail. Then she allows her PC buddies to ship unprossesed fish out of the province. Can Fishers do the same? No way. How would that help? A Fisher has a quota for herring but the local plant is geared up to produce capelin. They won't buy the catch. Can the Fisher sell his catch to an interested buyer in NS? No way. That can't help the fish merchants at all. Sink or swim on your own merits but government will hold on to the laws that will make this impossible.

  • Don II
    March 11, 2013 - 09:28

    I agree completely with David Boyd. It appears that the Government of Newfoundland has abandoned the people of the rural areas and has a policy that allows those determined to force the bulk of the population to move to the Avalon Peninsula to have their way and in the process destroy most of the outport communities. It appears that not only is the Government of Newfoundland prepared to allow Fish Plants to permanently close and a way of life to die in rural Newfoundland, it has started to refuse to recognize the peoples right, such as Mr. Boyd has, to have fishing stages, docks and water lots at the properties in order to moor their boats. Such is the case in the town of Cupids where the Government and the Town of Cupids have prevented private waterfront land owners from building modern docks to replace the Fishing Stages and moorings that once were there over centuries past. It appears that the Town of Cupids and the Government of Newfoundland are in the process of pursuing plans to expropriate waterfront lands from their private owners to permit the construction of a commercial marina or private yacht club. It appears that the peoples right to earn a living in their communities and to moor their boats and build their Fishing Stages and docks on their own property is being curtailed in favor of allowing the construction of Private Yacht Clubs in areas like Cupids. It appears that the groups who are pushing the Government to approve these Private Yacht Club projects are not satisfied with allowing the centuries old way of Newfoundland and Labrador life to continue and are moving to eradicate the private ownership of waterfront land, Fishing Stages, docks and boat moorings where ever they can as soon as they can with the assistance and approval of the Government of Newfoundland! It appears that the Government of Newfoundland has a hidden agenda and is moving to change the rural way of life without the knowledge and consent of the people who will be adversely affected. That is not the policy of a proper democratic Government, it is the policy of a Third World type regime.

  • p earle
    March 11, 2013 - 09:28

    I think if our saviour himself walked again back on earth and spoke to governments about stopping the destruction of our beloved fisher people, our coastal way of life and communities and our fish resource he would be totally ignored. Nothing, not even he, can penetrate the self omnipotent minds of government. David's description of what's happening to some of our fishing communities tears the heart out of me. The government's comment. . "it's just the reality of change caused by market forces in the industry", is also enough to turn ones stomach.Just Imagine the three leaders of our government, the Queen, the King and the Jokeman all coming from perhaps the greatest fishing peninsula the world has even known, standing by this statement as they watch the destruction of our great maritime culture. What comes to mind as an analogy is.... firemen with hoses pumped full of water but won't turn them on a house that is full of trapped helpless children that is burning to the ground in front of them! A couple of years ago our government leader Mr Williams said some thing about "someone should be shot over there". He made a mistake! I think the shots should be turned on themselves. phil earle, W.V, SA.

  • Wally
    March 11, 2013 - 08:48

    The tragedy that you described would only accelerate under a more competitive and free market economy.

  • We need anti-corruption police to monitor every move government makes.
    March 11, 2013 - 08:27

    Mr. Boyd you make good comments always such as this one. "The government is handcuffed by the power of the fish merchants’ association, and must obtain their permission for every move, whether attempting to find new markets, allow fishermen to temporarily sell herring or sea urchins to Maritime buyers". And I solemnly believe that those politicians who are allowing the fish merchants their own way are getting something out of this as well. We need anti-corruption police monitoring every move that our government makes with our natural resources. They are trading off the fish in a way to accomodate some other move, no doubt, maybe Muskrat Falls for the benefit of Ottawa's in its quest to garner International Trade Contracts for the Agriculture and Manufacturing sectors.

    • a business man
      March 11, 2013 - 09:43

      Honestly, as a newfoundland born voter, taxpayer and citizen, I completely SUPPORT trading off the fish in a way to accomodate some other move such as MF or international trade. To me, the fish is of importance to the economy, BUT the dirty unskilled fishery jobs are NOT. I would gladly trade away fishery job for export royalties that can be used on every citizen. I would love to see newfoundland trade away 10 fishery jobs for one white collar middle class desk job. WHY? because desk jobs is what we want for our children, not dirty unskilled fishery jobs. I am completely support the demise of the outport communities. WHY? because I get nothing from their existence. I imagine that if the outport communities die, then more people would move to St. Johns, or to Alberta. Either way, that might mean more customers for me. SO death to the outports! Again, this is my opinion as a newfoundland born taxpayer, citizen and voter.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    March 11, 2013 - 07:45

    There is much truth in your letter Mr. Boyd, but what you ask for will not happen on this government's watch.----- and will take much pressure from the public for changes to be made.