Fisheries minister sells out rural Newfoundland and Labrador
NDP Fisheries and Aquaculture critic Christopher Mitchelmore (MHA, The Straits-White Bay North) says an unusually-timed Friday night announcement is good news for workers in one town, but has set the stage for a complete loss of control of this province’s most traditional resource.
“It’s a Christmas gift for the workers at Fortune – and that’s not a bad thing – but it’s a bigger gift for OCI,” Mitchelmore said today. “They and other large companies have gotten a windfall today.”
The government has committed to allow Ocean Choice International to process up to 75 per cent of all its yellowtail flounder catch outside the country for 15 years. This will guarantee just over 100 fish plant jobs a year in Fortune, and a similar number of harvesters; the harvesting jobs will be filled by Canadian workers if available.
There is a minimal top-up in the Fish Plant Worker Employment Support Program for displaced OCI employees who have remained in Marystown and Port Union, but nothing else.
“I am encouraged by the announcement of a potential developmental quota for unused Icewater yellowtail quota,” Mitchelmore said. “If that actually goes ahead, it could be good news for smaller companies in the province.”
On the whole, though, he says the government’s decision is a dangerous one, potentially a long term disaster for the fishery. “If someone asks for a similar concession for cod, are they more likely to get it now?” he asked.
“For the sake of 236 jobs, we are locked in to this company for 15 years in this massive giveaway,” Mitchelmore said. “We have no idea how many jobs will be lost because of this dangerous precedent.
“It’s hard not to be happy for the people of Fortune, but the minister has set the wheels in motion for the people’s fishing resources to be completely controlled by big business.”