06 December 2011

The Wheel of Fish #nlpoli

Remember that thing about not being able to slide a sheet of paper between the three political parties on major issues?

Well, it continues to play out on the fishery.

Ocean Choice International announced on Friday it is closing a couple of plants that have been struggling for some time.

The provincial government  - via Premier Kathy Dunderdale  - blames the union for rejecting an offer to keep a couple of hundred people on the payroll long enough every year to qualify for federal hand-outs.

The latest fisheries minister repeats the government’s policy that fights against any reorganization of a fishery that everyone knows has too many people and way too many plants in it for anyone to make a decent living without government handouts. 

He threatens to hold up a decision on OCI’s export licenses unless the company delivers guarantees that the company will not close other plants.

The Liberals blame the Tories.  Bring out the “regulatory arsenal”, the Liberal news release screams, in order to to stop ”giveaways”.  Now there’s a novel idea:  politicians interfering in the fishery. What was the definition of stupid, again? 

The union-controlled New Democrats blame the company and province’s governing Tories for the mess.  What would they support?  Something that involves more government interference in the fishery which is, not surprisingly what both the Liberals and the Conservatives think is the right and new thing to do. 

And around and around the political merry-go-round spins, apparently, without any sense of the human tragedy caused by decades of exactly the same ideas they push as if no one has heard them before.

All three parties pretend that the central problem in the fishery doesn’t exist.  “The central problem of the fishery today”, as your humble e-scribbler wrote in September, “is that stocks have been decimated by decades of overfishing as a result of government policies that encouraged too many people to enter the fishery than it could sustain economically or environmentally without hundreds of millions annually in federal and provincial government subsidies.”

The Liberal release, in keeping with the party’s election platform, might actually be the stupidest position of the three parties.  But in fairness, they are mere millimetres beyond the Conservatives and the New Democrats on the stunned-arse scale.

Derek Butler is executive director of an association of fish processing companies.  In the Monday Telegram, Butler argues that only “change and a modern competitive fishery designed to perform to the market can work.”  He’s right.

But that is exactly the fishery that the politicians have fought against for decades.  The politicians had a choice.  They could manage the change or just let it happen. The former offered the chance of stability, order and control.  The latter could wind up being brutal and savage with an unpredictable outcome.  One is a jaunt; the other a  manic storm of motion and fury.

Well, with OCI’s decision last week, they don’t have a choice any more. 

Their merry-go-round ride just turned into a roller coaster without seatbelts or rails.

- srbp -