Living Up to Election Promises: N.L.’s Federal Cabinet Minister Outlines Fisheries Commitments Kept and Those Yet to Come

Newfoundland and Labrador’s newly minted representative in the federal cabinet was in St. John’s last month to address a captive audience at the FFAW’s (Fish, Food and Allied Workers union) constitutional convention.

Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote said the new Justin Trudeau-lead government has wasted no time in living up to some of the fisheries-related commitments made during the campaign — with the first being the reinstatement of the Coast Guard marine rescue sub-centre in St. John’s.

The gag order on federal scientists speaking to the media has also been lifted, with many fisheries researchers being the first to publically praise this move.

Foote told the union members that the principle of fisheries adjacency will also be given a high priority within the new government. “It ensures that benefits flow to the fishers in coastal communities closest to the resource — thus promoting local economic development. We cannot lose sight of the importance of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.”

“Effective management of our fisheries is essential for ensuring the long-term sustainable success of our marine food supply and the seafood industry and the health of coastal communities where fishing operations are based,” Foote added.

With respect to the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery receiving attention from the new Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Coast Guard, Hunter Tootoo, Foote said she has already been speaking with him, emphasizing that he understands how important the fishery is. But she did ask for patience from industry stakeholders.

“It is important for us to give him a little bit of time on some of these issues. Having only been appointed two and a half weeks ago, he is going through what I am going through and that is briefings on a daily basis. He will be responding to his mandate and what he has been tasked to do just like I am responding and will be responding to the media and to others in terms of what I have been tasked to do.”

Foote added that she and the entire seven-member Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal caucus, expects to have a very close working relationship with Tootoo.

“We realize how important the fishery is to Newfoundland and Labrador… he is going to be our best friend. How’s that? I have every confidence in him. He understands the fishery and of the preliminary chats we have had of how important the fishery is to Newfoundland and Labrador, it has become very obvious that he wants to work with us and will work with us.”

One of the long-standing issues Foote asked for patience on involved the war of words between Ottawa and the Newfoundland and Labrador government over the joint federal/provincial $400-million fund tied to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union.

“I am going to leave that to the minister of fisheries, oceans and the coast guard. Clearly he is looking at that and is something that the leader of the Liberal party, during the campaign, said it is a commitment that should be honoured, so I am feeling very comfortable about it.”

Foote also told the FFAW gathering that her government is still committed to reducing the employment insurance claims wait times.

“We have already indicated that instead of the two-week usual wait, it is going to be one week. That has already been announced. We have to put more people into Service Canada to deal with the claims. As you know Service Canada was cut substantially, so we have to look at that. There is a reason we are backlogged and a lot of that has to do with the fact the people were cut from the service.”

Of course, these were only a few of the issues raised by Newfoundland and Labrador to the new Trudeau government in Ottawa.

The province has asked for the immediate suspension of the LIFO (last in, first out) policy — a very contentious issue that has been dragged out for years, creating strife between the inshore and offshore shrimp fleets and processors.

Newfoundland and Labrador has also asked for immediate action to fully remediate the environmental risk presented by the sunken Manolis L in the northeastern waters, as well as suspension of the $25-million import tariffs related to the purchase of two new provincial ferries.

It has also indicated it wants to re-start talks with Tootoo on custodial management of the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, changes to halibut quotas and development of a new strategy on joint management of the fishery.

Kerry Hann

Managing Editor of The Navigator Magazine.

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