My first reaction to a recent news story in The Telegram entitled “St. Anthony Seafoods becomes a seven-month operation the first time in its history,” was to nod my head and think that reductions in work at plants like this is the cause of the decline in our rural Newfoundland Labrador communities.
After a few minutes though, it became clear to me that my initial thought was wrong.
The worries and hardships inflicted upon hard working people, like those who work at the St. Anthony plant, has been happening for decades throughout this province. Take a trip to rural communities and the most often heard comment about a landmark is “that used to be our fish plant.”
The recent news about the plant at St. Anthony and last year’s closure of the plant at Twillingate are just two examples of the symptom of what is wrong in rural Newfoundland Labrador. The cause of what the people of St. Anthony are now being forced to endure can be found in the offices and hallways on Wellington Street in Ottawa.
The Government of Canada has “managed” the fisheries resources off Newfoundland Labrador for everyone’s benefit, except for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Whether it has been to sell prairie wheat or central Canadian manufactured goods or, for other benefits to Canada, our fisheries resources have been given away to foreigners and/or corporate interests.
What happened to Northern cod in 1992 now appears to be about to happen with shrimp and crab. Just like with cod, the reasons given for the declines in shrimp and crab are all about everything except fisheries management.
Our provincial government is now preparing for a review of the conditions of our offshore oil agreement with Canada. I applaud them for doing that, but I am wondering why those same politicians have completely and totally ignored Canada’s track record of destruction of our inshore fishing industry.
A few years ago, the FFAW-Unifor fought with Ottawa to end the LIFO policy for shrimp. Even though LIFO was a policy initially crafted and signed by the FFAW-Unifor, I salute them for smartening up and ending it. However, they have continued to completely ignore the fact that Canada is giving our adjacent fisheries resources to foreigners and other corporate interests.
It is about time our government and the fisheries union stopped masquerading and blowing their own horns. Stop responding to the symptoms of the disease that inflicts the inshore fishing industry of this province and focus on the disease.
The resources that are beneath the waves of the waters adjacent to this province belong to the people of this province. Unless and until the people of this province are the first beneficiaries of those resources, the number of fishing enterprises and the number of fish plants and the number of rural communities in this province will continue to decline.
If our provincial government politicians and fisheries union do not immediately begin to fight for our adjacency rights, then the shame will be upon every citizen of this province. The shame will be ours because we let them continue to hoodwink us.
Portugal Cove-St. Philips