Question Period: March 28, 2012

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, on March 9 the Premier said she supported the fleet separation and owner operation policies. Then on Monday past the Harper government indicated they planned to abandon these policies which would trigger the end of the traditional inshore fishery.

Mr. Speaker, the loss of the Marine Search and Rescue Sub-Centre, the delay in establishing an independent offshore safety authority, whatever the issue, the Premier often says she has no control over the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, in light of this latest Conservative decision: Will the Premier stand in this House and affirm her commitment to these policies or will she again pass the buck?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The member opposite knows full well that every time an issue is brought before this House we accept responsibility for matters that we are responsible for, Mr. Speaker. We are not prepared to stand here at any point in time and accept responsibility and the buck being passed from across the House for things that we are not responsible for.

We have very clearly been open and transparent with this House on any number of issues that have been brought forward as it relates to the involvement of the federal government and the provincial government. Fleet separation, which was just raised a few moments ago, the Premier has been very clear in this House and I have been very clear, over and over and over again, and I do not know how many times that we can repeat the message, Mr. Speaker, but our position on fleet separation and owner-operator policy in this Province has not changed from the past.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would say to the minister that it is their responsibility to work with the federal government, Mr. Speaker. The very people this government supported in the last federal election are now about to inflict a blow to our fishing communities, not seen since the imposition of the 1992 cod moratorium.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier again: Will she now admit campaigning for Stephen Harper was a mistake and start the fight to preserve the vital fleet separation and owner-operator policies and save our coastal communities?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there is no way to satisfy the Opposition and the Third Party. Mr. Speaker, we have had at the very best what one could describe as a contentious relationship with the federal government since 2003.

Mr. Speaker, we launched the ABC campaign and were critiqued on a daily basis. I can provide copies of Hansard here in this House where time after time we were criticized in this House for not talking to, not working with, not co-operating with the federal government from members on the opposite side of the aisle. Mr. Speaker, we have a majority government (inaudible) a Prime Minister, and are criticizing me for talking to him instead of shouting at him. What do you want?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I respond to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, that what I am looking for is results of the talking with them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, fleet separation and owner-operator policy is critical to coastal communities and protecting independent fishers in the inshore fishery of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Will she affirm her government’s unwavering support for fleet separation and owner-operated vessels in the inshore fishery, and vow to fight any move to eliminate this policy even if it means raising her voice with the federal government?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this government supports all of the people in this Province. When we came to government in 2003, there was an affirmation of the rights of the people to expect governance that was principle-centred, Mr. Speaker. We have provided that governance to the people of the Province since 2003.

We support fishers in this Province. In terms of what we do as a provincial government: over $50 million investment in the fishery of this Province. We stand up for the rights of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Mr. Speaker, whether it is here at home, in Ottawa, or abroad.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for The Straits - White Bay North.

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen from other jurisdictions when large companies buy fish licences. They sometimes sell them on the open market, often at very high prices. Often the buyer of a licence tries to recoup their investment by lowering the wages for local people who are employed.

Mr. Speaker, fishing rights should not be something that you trade on the stock market. They are a legacy for coastal communities.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: What is her government doing to protect the legacy of the people of this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to respond.

I say to the member opposite, first of all, that the jurisdictional issue of quota is a matter that is with the federal government. We have no responsibility whatsoever.

Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear on the previous question. This government will not take any lectures from the Leader of the Third Party on coastal communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. I say, Mr. Speaker, very clearly that the critic for her party wrote me a letter and told me very clearly that they are against shipping out of live lobster in this Province. I will tell you this much: that will shut down many communities in rural Newfoundland and Labrador if that policy were followed.

I also say, Mr. Speaker, that they are against any exemptions to unprocessed fish, which would have closed the Marystown fish plant years ago –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for The Straits - White Bay North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, co-operatives work. We have seen this across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, a group of lobster fishers in my district, in a bid to increase their incomes, want to develop a lobster co-op. Mr. Speaker, a great deal of infrastructure to help them is already in place through Regional Economic Development Boards and other government offices. Mr. Speaker, they are experts at harvesting lobster but they will need help in developing a co-op.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture: Will this government take a proactive leadership role and assist these people in establishing a lobster co-op?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that the member is finally on his feet asking some very, very important questions. The short answer to that question is absolutely, yes. We have established Regional Economic Development Boards and zonal boards and marketing divisions in my department and other officials through policy and research for just that purpose. This government will never, ever, stand in the way of co-ops in this Province, Mr. Speaker, but let’s be very clear it is not this government that establishes co-ops. It has to be the harvesters in the communities who decide collectively that we want to come together and make a co-op. We have them in the Province and they are working, Mr. Speaker, because the business owners want them, not because government tells them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s East.

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, experts say that a real barrier to successful economic development of the fishery is in our municipal government’s lack of resources, mandate and jurisdiction. Other places such as Norway benefit from powerful and capable municipal government structures. Mr. Speaker, we must give our municipal governments the resources they need to develop their connection to the fishery.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs: When is government going to empower our fishing communities to develop their economic potential for the full benefit of the residents?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A very, very interesting question; probably a very quick reminder to people that jurisdiction around the fishery in Canada it is not with municipal governments, I say to the member opposite, Mr. Speaker. Jurisdiction around quotas in the fishery is with the federal government. The provincial government has responsibility for fish from the time that they are landed on shore and sold. Once fish are being processed we have responsibility for that and we manage that very well, Mr. Speaker. We work with the industry very closely to ensure that we have proper protocols and procedures in place to ensure we get good quality coming out of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite wants to talk about Norway, we can get into a lot more detail about Norway next time around.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s Centre.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, in the Blue Book in the past election, the government promised to promote local consumption of locally grown fish. Six months later we have not heard anything on this promise. Mr. Speaker, we need a strategy for marketing and distributing our fresh seafood products to our own people.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture: What is the plan and the strategy for promoting local consumption of local fish, and will he table it?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Something very fishy going on here today, Mr. Speaker. Careful what you ask for, I say to all members in this House.

Very good question – let me just share to the member opposite – very good question – the aquaculture in this Province, Mr. Speaker, is to the tune of more than $100 million right now, more than $100 million, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: I point people in the direction, in particular, of two areas of the Province: the Connaigre Peninsula, the Harbour Breton area; and certainly, my colleague here, the Member for St. George’s – Stephenville East – we were there on Friday. Mr. Speaker, I say to you there is a facility in Stephenville now that is a part of the aquaculture industry – a project of more than $16 million, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s North.

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to think that we learned something from the mistakes of the TAGGS program and its failure to properly retrain displaced fisheries workers. With OCI refusing to open the Marystown and Port Union plants, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Order, please!

MR. KIRBY: Will this government provide retraining and upgrading opportunities so that these workers can find meaningful employment right here in Newfoundland and Labrador?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s North.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We only have a few short years left until a projected skilled labour shortage is upon us. What opportunities will this government provide to ensure that unemployed and underemployed workers in Newfoundland and Labrador have the skills they need to meet the coming labour market demands?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills – you have about eleven seconds to answer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this Province and this government certainly acknowledge that there will be a labour shortage, and in some sectors we are experiencing the labour shortage today, Mr. Speaker.

We have money that we administer that comes to us through the labour market agreement, and we want to make sure, Mr. Speaker – do not cut me off yet, I just started, I know you are going to stand up on me.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Question Period has expired.

Associated Caucus Members: 

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