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.