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LETTER: Advocacy for the oil and gas industry needed but don’t forget the fishery

Crab bots sit on the deck of a boat in St. John's harbour.
Crab bots sit on the deck of a boat in St. John's harbour. - Glen Whiffen

I was very pleased to recently see the premier and minister of Natural Resources join with stakeholders in our oil and gas industry to lobby Ottawa for support of our province’s offshore.

And while some of my colleagues in the Opposition may say that government has been a little late to the party or that their approach in dealing with their federal Liberal cousins has been too soft, at least they are finally speaking out publicly.

I would add that hopefully their public display of support will be a sustained effort versus a one-time political photo opportunity. Time will tell.

As has been acknowledged on any number of occasions, despite the current glut in the market and the global move away from fossil fuels, petroleum products will likely continue to play a significant role in our world for many years to come, and we in N.L. have some of the highest quality resources on the planet — and lots of it.

These resources have provided a huge boost to our province over the years, not just through direct royalties into government coffers, but just as importantly, if not more importantly, through the provision of direct and indirect employment opportunities for our people.

With that said, we also have another tremendous resource in our ocean that contributes over a billion dollars to our economy annually, and is largely responsible for our existence as a province and a people. It is an industry that has not only been the life blood of so many of our rural communities, but also contributes significantly to our urban centers through its many spin-offs.

Of course I’m referring to our fishery.

My question is when will our provincial government, in a similar way in which it has offered support for our oil and gas industry, join with our fishing industry stakeholders to lobby the federal government on the many long-standing issues impacting this tremendous resource?

When will they finally challenge Mother Ottawa in a meaningful and sustained manner on issues such as foreign overfishing, the principle of adjacency, fisheries science, seal predation and joint management? And when will they hold our federal MP’s accountable and demand their advocacy and public support for this vital resource?

Now one might ask, why is a member of the House of Assembly who represents an urban district with no wharf, no fishing boats, and very limited knowledge of the fishery speaking out in support of this industry?

First of all, whether we realize it or not, the fishery benefits the entire province in terms of its overall financial contribution to government coffers.

Secondly, there are many businesses in urban centres, including St. John’s and Mount Pearl, which exist, either fully or partially, to service the fishing industry.

With that said, the most important reason for speaking out in support of our fishing industry is that somebody has to.

And unfortunately, whether it be in the halls of power in Ottawa or in Newfoundland and Labrador, when it comes to the fishery, the only thing you can hear is crickets.

Paul Lane, Independent MHA
District of Mount Pearl-Southlands

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