26 April 2006

Tom Rideout and the Tar-baby

For most of its term, the Williams administration has been treating Fishery Products International as a sort of tar-baby. They dance around and around without wanting to delve into the issue and resolve it.

Premier Danny Williams and fish minister Tom Rideout knew in December, 2005 of the need for an early retirement package for workers due to be laid off by FPI as the company works to deal with its financial mess. FPI officials briefed on the proposed restructuring.

Williams and Rideout did nothing, save for the torqued outburst by the toqued minister about charging the company for doing something he knew full-well his predecessor had approved.

Today, they still have done nothing except dance around an issue they seem incapable of grasping or at least unwilling to touch.

This time the government's merry jig includes a face familiar to the Premier and his fisheries minister and deputy premier. That face is Bill Barry. Most recently, Premier Williams and Tom Rideout poured the weight of the provincial government into putting one of Barry's products back on shelves from which they'd been removed due solely to poor sales.

Speaking to reporters, Rideout said he had received expressions of interest from two companies that want to purchase some of FPI's assets. One of those interested was apparently a company owned by Bill Barry.

The curious thing about this revelation is that Rideout is the one making it. FPI is a publicly traded company currently working to restructure and currently in negotiations with its workers. Rideout may be aware of certain offers but it is highly improper for him to be revealing details of discussions between two companies in public, highly improper indeed.

Given the history of this administration and FPI, one wonders what Rideout is up to.

What we do not need to wonder about, though, is the need to get politics and politicians out of the fishery. FPI's request - repeated yet again - for the government to repeal the FPI Act and put the company firmly in the private sector is one that should be heeded, just as it should have been heeded months and years ago.

The more that politicians muck about with the fishing industry - especially ones who carry with them out-moded ideas from the last time they held the fisheries portfolio - the more likely the rest of us are to get flung into a briar patch.