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Letter: Liberals content to let Ottawa play lead on fisheries fund

Gutted cod in Quidi Vidi.
Gutted cod in Quidi Vidi.

It is astonishing to see the province’s minister of Fisheries admit in writing that the Atlantic Fisheries Fund agreement that the Liberals has been celebrating is not yet completed, let alone signed.

On June 21, Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Steve Crocker responded to my inquiry for details with the following: “Thank you for your letter dated June 13, 2017, to Premier (Dwight) Ball requesting an update on the current status of the Atlantic Fisheries Fund. Your correspondence has been forwarded to my office for review and follow-up. At this time, the federal government is finalizing the details of key program elements, governance and funding level allocations. We are eager to commence the initiative and have identified projects that demonstrate potential to receive support through the program. Once the agreement is completed and signed, you will be advised and the details will be made available for public knowledge. The Atlantic Fisheries Fund is paramount to the sustainability of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery and I look forward to discussing the parameters in the near future.”

It is amazing that the Ball government is simply waiting for Ottawa to tell us what the province is going to receive. By contrast, when our administration was negotiating the fisheries fund with Ottawa, we had over 300 pages outlining what we wanted negotiated, the timelines for funds to flow and the sorts of programs we intended to implement. The agreement we secured had five pillars — marketing opportunities; fishery science; research and development; infrastructure; and workplace adjustments. We saw the stock declines and quota cuts looming and were determined to be ready. Justin Trudeau recognized that we had a $400-million Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries fund agreement, and he promised us in writing that he would honour it.

Almost 20 months into their term, the Ball Liberals have not been able to get Trudeau to deliver on his written commitment to our province. Fisheries challenges have already started taking its toll on people, but the Liberals are still not ready to deliver.

Everything is still up in the air — the program elements, the governance, the funding level allocations — everything! The Ball government is simply letting Ottawa do whatever it chooses, in its own fine time. The Ball Liberals are showing no evidence of planning of their own, and no backbone to fight for the challenging industry. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians deserve better.

 

Keith Hutchings
Intergovernmental Affairs critic
for the Official Opposition

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