18 May 2006

Pulling it out: Williams and the fishery

This week Newfoundlanders and Labradorians saw proof that Premier Danny Williams and his administration have no idea what to do with the fishery.

For one thing, Williams announced there will be a summit of key players to discuss what ought to be done. Whenever a politician organizes a meeting in this context and calls it a summit, you know right away this is a politician without a single desperate clue about what needs to be done. This isn't a meeting with a purpose. This isn't a "task force", as some groups like to call them, with a specific mission to sort out a special problem.


Williams' "summit" is basically going to consist of a bunch of people trying to first of all agree on what is wrong so that they might then, possibly at some unforeseen point in the future, actually be able to start working on what might be done to fix the problem now that they have agreed on a definition. Consider this to be a form of collective bargaining. Odds are very high that in the divergent worlds of the union and the companies, there will be no agreement on the problem any more than the union has shown it grasps the scope of the fish problem already.

That said, there is a good chance the two parties (three if one considers the inherent conflict of interest in Earl McCurdy's outfit) will agree on what they have always been able to agree on in situations like this: shag figuring out the question. Public money is the answer. The government must pour hundreds of millions of dollars into their collective pockets to keep everything just as it is.

"Save us!", they will cry in unison, yet again, so that once this crisis has passed, the industry can resume the same wasteful, unproductive and ultimately destructive work it has been doing since the 1950s. Williams will then look at Loyola Hearn who will look back and shrug. There will then be further talks between Ottawa and St. John's and further shrugging.

We are in for a long summer and a painful fall.

For the second thing, there is Williams' plan to further interfere in the management of a private sector company, namely Fishery Products International. Williams' excuse for making this move is a concern that two of the directors are working against the "best interests" of Newfoundland and Labrador. He has nary a shred of evidence of anything evil here at all. There is no proof that John Risley and George Armoyan - wealthy Nova Scotians both and by definition evil to the townie brood from which Williams springs - are doing anything other than trying to keep the company going and restore it to financial health.

Williams claims he is afraid they will break up the company and sell it off. Therefore he must add a government agent to the board and making other unspecified changes to the legislation governing FPI. Of course, that legislation already prevents Risley and Armoyan from doing what Williams claims he is afraid of, so, as with so many thing, there is a huge gap between what Danny Williams says and the reality.

All this demonstrates that Williams is pulling his fish policy out of some convenient bodily orifice. In the absence of a sweet clue of what to do on any of these files, Williams is making it up on the fly. Check to see if he says, yet again that "all options are open". All options are open only to someone who has not or cannot make a decision. Think about it.

Made up on the fly? You better believe it. This summit was cooked up along with the FPI legislation in a mere two weeks. The fishery crisis has been looming for most of the two and more years Williams has been in office; the problems with FPI alone date from the very first moments of his administration. If Williams and his cabinet had a grip on the fishery, they would have pulled together the key players years ago, not so publicly but in private, to sort through the issues.

Where will it end? When will it end?

No one can say.

If we knew that, we'd know what government was up to.

But that is impossible since, as Danny is fond of saying, all options are open.