Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Concrete baby booties

“Our government’s unwavering commitment to the province’s fishing and aquaculture industries is demonstrated in the fact that the budget for the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture has increased five-fold since the Williams administration took office.”
— Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman, as quoted in a Budget 2010 press release.

What a load.

The success of the province’s Fisheries Department is not measured by the amount of public money it spends, but by the health of the fishery.

Which is sick as a dog.

And has been for a dog's age.

The following quote was pulled directly from The Economy 2010, one of six budget documents, under 2009 Highlights:

“The volume of fish landings declined 8.5 per cent in 2009, while the value decreased by 19.2 per cent. The recession put downward pressure on prices for many species and reduced fishing activity.”

So much for that “unwavering commitment” there Clyde.

It’s not getting us anywhere.

It’s also interesting to note that the vast majority of new fisheries spending is directed towards aquaculture, or fish farming.

The Telegram estimates the Danny Train will spend an estimated $3.65 million on fisheries — compared to $25 million on aquaculture.

So much for wild stocks, the traditional fishery, and outport heritage.

Cages are where the fishery’s at.

Burn your nets.
The one hopeful sign to be taken from Budget Day 2010 didn’t come from the budget itself.

But from the dozens of fishermen who protested — not about the budget, but about where they can sell their catch — on the front steps of Confederation Building.

There’s life in the old dog yet.
“Start to finish, Mr. Speaker, this budget is about children; their dreams, their best interests, the province and their future.”
— Finance Minister Tom Marshall, Budget Speech 2010.

Just as long as that future isn’t in the fishery.

Or beyond The Overpass.

Another 2009 Highlight:

“Newsprint shipments declined to 264,500 tonnes impacted by the closure of the mill in Grand Falls-Windsor and production cutbacks at the Corner Brook mill. Shipment value decreased 56.5 per cent because of lower prices and production.”

The Danny Williams administration gave Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Ltd. $15.4 million in direct assistance in Budget 2010.

Corner Brook is located within the premier’s district.

The former mills in Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor mills were not.

Another Hightlight:

“The value of mineral shipment decreased about 50 per cent to $1.9 billion due mainly to lower production and prices for iron ore and nickel.”

In summary, the fishery, forestry and mining sectors were all shot in 2009.

If not for oil (the Atlantic Accord and offshore royalties make up 39 per cent of all provincial government revenue), Newfoundland and Labrador would be destitute.

Third-World broke.

NL would be to North America what Greece is to Europe.

A basket case.

And the oil is running out.

The Department of Finance’s March 2010 forecast projects annual oil production to decrease to 86.4 million barrels, down about 12 per cent over 2009.

There hasn’t been a new oil discovery on the Grand Banks in a generation.

The kids better hurry along before we run out of future.
“We’re going to have more jobs in this province than people can only imagine … it’s not the time to slam on the brakes. We’re using oil to diversify the economy so we have a solid base.”
— Finance Minister Tom Marshall on VOCM Open Line with Randy Simms on Tuesday, March 30, 2010, the day after Budget Day.

Marshall was talking about the nickel processing plant in Long Harbour, which is under construction, as well as the Hebron and White Rose offshore oil expansions.

Would you call that diversity?
“Don’t say we’re a have province.”
— George Murphy, as quoted on Open Line the morning after Budget 2010 was released.

Being a have province doesn’t exactly put more food on the table.

The deficit for the 2009-10 fiscal year comes in at $295 million.

Government officials forecast a deficit of $194 million for the coming year.

In fact, the Williams government expects to continue spending more cash than it brings in until 2013.

How much more?

After reducing the province’s debt by $4 million, the Williams administration is headed the other way.

As The Telegram points out in today’s edition, by the end of the coming fiscal year, the net debt is projected stand at $9.2 billion — $1.3 billion higher than the 2009 figure.


Instead of new shoes, a budget-day tradition, Finance Minister Tom Marshall carried a $1.47 pair of baby boots with him on Budget Day.

The booties were ceramic.

Maybe they should have been set in concrete.


All Things Newfoundland said...

Hi Ryan, I consider you to be a pretty knowledgeable about the fishery and I can't get past this question.

I blogged about this today and I am not sure who will come out on top in this dispute.

What happens if the fishermen get what they want? The right to sell their products outside the province. Are all bets off them with regards to the processors operating in the province? Most of them have plants in NS or NB and that is likely where the harvesters will go with their catch. With the added product on the market the maritime fishermen are sure to kick up a stink and try and keep the NL fishermen out. Prices are sure to be lower with added raw product and the plan owners will be in a position to push them even lower.

The fishermen are complaining about protectionism but in my opinion it is that very protectionism that has enabled these plants across our province to remain open. If the fishermen really want an open market then the same has to apply to the producers and if that happens it can only spell disaster for NL out ports who rely on the fishery. What do you think...it is easy just to criticize the Provincial government for their commitment to an industry that is regulated by the federal government.

Bruce said...

I have to agree with All Things...

If the province allows a free market in fish processing there won;t be a plant left in Newfoundland in a generation.

Where will that leave us then?

If you listen to the Fisherman's Broadcast, all you hear everyday is an unending litany of complaint.

Some useful suggestions as to how to improve this mess, without some imaginary pile of government money, would be a hell of a lot more useful than adding to this litany of complaint.

Diversifying rural Newfoundland is a tough job; both the province and the feds have thrown billions at it for 60 years; we all know the problem by now - what's the solution? Diversify what? Who is paying for it?