Thursday, March 5, 2015

NLers need to roar more often

I gave the following speech in Gander on Wednesday (March 5th) during the Standing up for Adjacency rally organized by the Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ union. DFO's LIFO policy governs the setting of northern shrimp quotas, which have been reduced in recent years as the stock has been in decline. Under LIFO, the bulk of quota cuts have been to the small boat, inshore sector, because it was the last to join in the relatively new shrimp fishery, while offshore license holders (many of whom are from mainland Canada, with foreign ownership) have seen dramatically less quota reduction.

Why is LIFO wrong?

LIFO — the Last-in, first-out policy that governs the setting of northern shrimp quotes — why is it so wrong?

Because our inshore fishermen were the first in, and they should never be out — they should be the last to go.

You won’t hear me mention LIFO again this morning.

The principle of adjacency is a basic one, the principle of adjacency is a fair one, the principle of adjacency is critical to the future of coastal communities, of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Those closest to the resource must benefit from the resource.

Our fishermen, our plant workers, our communities, exist shoulder to shoulder with the Northwest Atlantic.

We are more than adjacent  — our culture, our heritage — is spliced with the nets of our forefathers.

We are more than adjacent — the blood of our rural economy is the fish caught off our shores.

We are more than adjacent — the past, present and future of our coastal communities is bound to the sea.

To deny a Newfoundlander or Labradorian access to the resources adjacent to our shores is to deny our future.

This rally is about standing up for adjacency.

More than that, this rally is about standing up for the principle of adjacency — and we must stand by our principles — because the Harper government has none.

The Harper government is no friend to Newfoundland and Labrador.

The fisheries management policies of Fisheries and Oceans, the fisheries management policies of the Government of Canada, must work for our coastal communities.

Too often they do not.

Fisheries management policies must work for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Too often they do not.

Too often the fisheries management policies are bad management policies.

Too often fisheries management decisions are made in the best interests — not of the people adjacent to the resource — but of people adjacent to power and influence.

Too often those people are not our people, too often those people are not Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

We’ve had our share of poor fisheries management; we’ve suffered because of it (an understatement if ever there was one).

People here today know what I’m talking about — the moratorium that’s stretched from two years to 23 years — and counting. We’ve lost tens of thousands of our people.

What’s the average age of a fisherman today?

The average age of a plant worker?

Do our sons and daughters even want to be fishermen?

Fewer and fewer.  

That must change, our attitudes must change, our expectations must change.

Poor fisheries management decisions made 2,000 kilometres away in land-locked Ottawa must end.

Newfoundland Labrador must demand more — much demand better.

We’ve taken the fight to the federal Conservative government.

The most recent battle we’ve taken to the floor of the House of Commons was a debate calling on the Conservative government to honour its promise to Newfoundland and Labrador regarding the EU trade deal and the Fisheries Investment Fund.

The European Union asked the Government of Canada to get Newfoundland and Labrador to surrender its minimum processing requirements.

MPRs are a key management tool over our greatest industry, our greatest resource.

The Harper Cons made the province an offer — Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province asked to give up a key management policy.

The Cons made us an offer and the province accepted it.

And then what did the Harper Cons do?

They reneged on the offer, they pulled a double cross, the facts point in the betrayal direction.

The Minister of Justice even had the gall to visit St. John’s and criticize Newfoundland and Labrador for wanting a “slush fund."

That’s more than bad management, that’s bad manners, that’s bad form.

That’s unacceptable form.

This rally is meant to raise awareness of the huge impacts that cuts to the inshore shrimp quota will have on our coastal communities.

This event is also a rallying cry to help government recognize the importance of adjacency in relation to the management of the northern shrimp stock.

John Crosbie once asked who hears the fishes when they cry?

Who hears Newfoundlanders and Labradorians when we roar?

We should roar more often.

The Harper Conservatives are listening — they know a roar when they hear one.

We sent them a message when they wanted to eliminate the owner-operator fleet separation policies.

The message was — don’t do it.

Don’t tinker with the sacred pillars of the traditional inshore fishery.

And they didn’t — at least for now.

But we must be vigilant.

The Conservatives will always try to find a way to do through the back door what they couldn’t do through the front.

We sent the Harper Cons a message re moving pilots deeper into Placentia Bay.

Don’t do it — don’t move pilots further into a bay that’s already deemed a high risk for an oil spill.

There’s news the pilotage authority is backing off, but we must be vigilant.

We’ve been demanding for months that the Harper Conservatives adhere to the principle of adjacency in regards to cuts to the shrimp quota.

An all-party committee from Newfoundland and Labrador went to Ottawa last year and appeared before the standing committee on Fisheries and Oceans that I sit on.

It was like talking to the wall.

Does Newfoundland and Labrador, and our seven seats, matter to the federal Conservatives.

No, we don’t.

We saw that with the CETA promise — betrayal.

Our message must be clearer, our message must be louder, and our message must be unanimous.

Adhere to the principle of adjacency.

Those closest to the resource must benefit from the resource.

Newfoundland and Labrador must benefit from the resources off our shores.

One last point — 2015 is the 20th anniversary of the Estai.

Brian Tobin seized the country’s attention — the world’s attention — by firing a shot across the bow of a Spanish trawler during the turbot wars of the 1990s.

Tobin then took the 16-story long illegal net with undersized mesh that the Spanish trawler had been dragging on the Grand Banks, undersized mesh so small it could catch fish the size of your palm.

He took that net and hung it from a crane on the New York City waterfront near the United Nations.

But 20 years later and where are we now.

How much has fisheries management improved?

This is the 20th anniversary of the Turbot War and management decisions still don’t work for us.

The industry remains in perpetual crisis.

It’s do or die now.

And common sense, basic principles, must prevail.

The principle of adjacency must prevail — those closest to the resource must benefit from the resource.

We are closest to the source — Newfoundlanders and Labradorians must benefit from the resource.

Thank you.

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