28 May 2012

The Other Damn-Fool Fisheries Policy #nlpoli #cdnpoli

About 30 years ago, Kathy Dunderdale started out her political career fighting against fisheries reform.

Last December,  she scolded fish plant workers in Marystown for turning out 18 weeks work that would have qualified them for employment insurance and kept their plant open.

She continued her fight against fisheries reform over the weekend in a series of interviews with national media about the federal government’s proposed changes to the employment insurance system.

Dunderdale turned up on CBC’s Power and Politics with Rosemary Barton, CTV’s Power Play with Don Martin and Evan Solomon on CBC’s The House. Here’s what she started out staying to Craig Oliver, for example, on CTV’s Question Period 

…food production around the world is often supported and subsidized by governments.  We have such a program in this country [for agriculture]… but we don’t have any such program for the fishery.

Of course, Dunderdale is completely out to lunch when she claims the fishery doesn’t get government subsidies.  These days it is hard to know who she thinks she might be fooling with that sort of talk.

It’s also pretty funny that Kathy Dunderdale told her mainland audiences about the way men and women were “co-opted” into the fishery, as she put it.  The punchline to the joke is that Dunderdale’s 2011 election campaign platform talked about bringing back one of the most notorious subsidy programs from the dark past: the fisheries loan board:

Both the federal and provincial governments abandoned plans to reform the fishery.  Instead they created policies to draw more people into the industry.  In 1976, there were 13,376 fishermen in the province.  By 1980 there were 33,640.  Total federal and provincial subsidies added up to about the same as the landed value of the catch.

The Fisheries Loan Board – provincial money for boats and gear – went from $12,488,000 in outstanding loans in 1976 to $43,796,000 in 1980.  Most of the money was never repaid.

But as far as the goal of getting more people into an already over-stressed industry, the FLB was a stunning success.

Dunderdale also talked about “disconnect” and “reality”.  The only disconnect in this latest twist in the fisheries saga is between reality and the world Dunderdale inhabits.  The future is here already and she cannot ignore it any longer.

The reality is, as Kathy Dunderdale admitted in her interviews, that in many parts of Newfoundland and Labrador there simply aren’t work alternatives for those people who currently work for a small part of the year processing fish and collect employment insurance for the rest of the year.

The reality is that, as Kathy Dunderdale effectively admitted, she and her colleagues have failed utterly to deliver on their promises made in 2003 to diversify the economy and create jobs.  What’s more, through a combination of neglect and deliberate policy, she and her colleagues dismantled efforts from previous governments to diversify the economy.  Some of those efforts started at least  20 years ago. They were designed to correct the very situation that Kathy Dunderdale fought to maintain in the early 1980s and that she apparently wants to carry on today with her talk of yet more subsidies for an industry drowning in them.

Talk about a government disconnected from reality.