John Risley is blaming two successive provincial administrations for actions that led to the breakup of Fishery Products International.
"We're in this situation essentially because of the FPI Act," Risley told CBC News on Monday, after the Newfoundland and Labrador government gave its blessing to FPI's plans to sell most of its plants, vessels and quotas to two competitors: St. John's-based Ocean Choice International and Nova Scotia's High Liner Foods.
Risley said his original plan — to merge FPI with his own, Nova Scotia-based company, Clearwater Fine Foods — would have turned FPI into a powerhouse.
The plan was blocked by the then-Liberal government and the Risley-led board has had strained relations with the governing Progressive Conservatives since they took office in 2003.
"FPI would have become one of the premier seafood companies in the world instead of now effectively ceasing to exist," Risley said.
Meanwhile, Premier Danny Williams apparently spent a chunk of time worrying that the whole arrangement might allow Risley to come in through the back door:
"What we've tried to do is make sure that there wasn't a quick flip on this, and that this wasn't perceived or was a sham for some takeover by John Risley or anybody else, at the end of the day," Williams said.Maybe this worry about flipping was the reason the provincial government rejected the first buyer, the Barry Group.
It all seems rather convoluted though, given that the provincial government could have just as easily continued the FPI Act and held onto control over all the company assets.
Instead, the provincial government facilitated breaking up the company, changed the FPI Act to make breaking the company up even easier and will now become even more directly involved in operating part of the company through its control over fish quotas. it makes you wonder if the provincial government got itself into the position of smashing up a vertically integrated company by accident or if someone thought that this was a good idea.
The only real mystery around Bond Papers is why there's been all this concern about conniving and secret deals and vague possibilities of something happening in the future that wouldn't be happening had government not interfered in the whole process in the first place?
It's the same sort of concern, incidentally - the appearance of something as opposed to the fact of it - that seems to have hung up the fibre optic deal for an extra-ordinary period of time.
Maybe the Premier is a bit sensitive to the whole issue since he was accused of being party to such a flip, at least once. He says he wasn't; take him at his word.
But other than paranoia, was there ever any evidence that anyone wanted to break up FPI, that is, other than the people who have been currently involved in breaking it up?