08 July 2010

Are you smarter than a cheese grater, now?

Remember that fisheries research cash announcement that seemed to have been cobbled together within the past six weeks?

Well, there’s a bit more evidence of the whole thing was baked up in a few weeks.  The evidence comes from the release of a consultation document to support development of a coastal and oceans management strategy by the provincial governments.

Environment minister Charlene Johnson is in the thick of it, once again, with this quote from the news release:

“Our oceans play a very valuable role in our ecosystems and it is important that we employ an appropriate policy framework for their management,”…

Charlene has an interest in and jurisdiction over the ocean.


In late May – about six weeks ago – she sure didn’t.

That’s because, according to Johnson, “if the Leader of the Opposition was so concerned about the environment and offshore she should have asked me a question where jurisdiction does fall under my department and that is when the oil reaches the land, Mr. Speaker.”

In that same session, natural resources minister Calamity Kathy Dunderdale went so far as to put a specific delimitation on where the shore began: the “Minister of Environment and Conservation … has no responsibility beyond the high water mark.”

Dunderdale – who is also Danny Williams’ hand-picked choice as second in command on the good ship Williams – also had no trouble defining where the fisheries minister stood:  his “did not go any further than that either as far as the offshore was concerned.”

How truly odd, then, that the other minister involved in the oceans strategy consultation was none other than Clyde Jackman, minister of fisheries and aquaculture.

Now we’ve already had more than a few chortles  at Dunderdale’s expense over this whole issue of jurisdiction. Okay so maybe there were a few guffaws too. But for an administration  whose deputy premier only a few weeks ago was adamant that  ministers had absolutely no responsibility for what went on below the high water mark on the shore, this new document is a gigantic change of direction.

All in six weeks.

But that’s not the end of it.

This new strategy is supposedly about…well, let’s let Charlene tell us:

“Our goal is sustainability and ensuring we use our resources effectively…”

Laudable stuff, indeed.

The word “sustainable” occurs no fewer than 36 times in the consultation document itself, usually in conjunction with the word “manner”, as in things must be done in a “sustainable manner”.

The responsibility for this sustainable stuff rests with none other than Charlene Johnson and her intrepid little department:

The Department of Environment and Conservation is responsible for developing and implementing the Sustainable Development Act, the Sustainable Development Strategy, and coordinating interdepartmental interests. It supports the Sustainable Development Roundtable, comprised of stakeholders from around the province, and
the development and monitoring of indicators to ensure development adheres to the principles of sustainability. (p.13)

Sustainable Development Act?

Yes, that would be the same piece of legislation that was part of the Tory campaign platform in 2003, passed into law in early 2007 but never implemented.

The roundtable?

Doesn’t exist, apparently.

And that sustainable development strategy?  Well, if the Act had been put into effect, then the whole thing would already exist. Instead, government is trotting out yet another consultation to develop yet another strategy on things which apparently are beyond its ministerial competence and all of this is being done before they bother to put into an effect a commitment made in 2003.

For those who are counting that is a total of seven years to get exactly nowhere.

The Sustainable Development Act required that cabinet approve a comprehensive strategic environment management plan for the whole province within two years of the Act coming into force.  In other words, if this Act had been put into effect the year it was passed, the entire province – including the fisheries related bits – would already have a plan.

And then five years after that, the whole thing would be reviewed again complete with public consultation.

To put it bluntly, had the current administration done what it committed to do in 2003 and what it finally got around to passing through the House of Assembly in 2007, this entire business and a whole lot more besides would already be done or well under way.

As it is, one has to wonder why the SDA remains in mothballs and why this  particular “consultation” appears now, out of the blue, and focuses – as it appears – on areas over which the provincial government has no legislative jurisdiction.

Taken together with Friday’s announcement, it looks a we bit curious if not downright suspicious.

- srbp -