ST. JOHN’S, NL – Today Prime Minister Trudeau appointed North Vancouver Member of Parliament Jonathan Wilkinson as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, replacing Minister Dominic Leblanc who had served in that role since 2016. FFAW-Unifor is cautiously optimistic that the new minister will quickly address the many serious challenges facing the fishery.
“FFAW-Unifor worked closely with Minister Leblanc to abolish the Last In, First Out policy for northern shrimp and successfully lobbied for significant changes to the Fisheries Act that will protect the owner-operator inshore fishery in Eastern Canada. However, there are many challenges ahead for the new minister and we look forward to working closely with him to address those issues,” said FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.
FFAW-Unifor members are frustrated with delayed management plans for almost every fishery this year, including halibut, snow crab, capelin and northern cod. More work must be done to strengthen coastal economies through protecting the inshore fishery and the fish processing sector in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“This cabinet shuffle is an opportunity for a reset on fisheries issues. While our relationship with Minister Leblanc started out strong, the Minister’s commitment to the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery was not as evident in recent months,” explained Sullivan. “With a new minister comes a new opportunity to promote and protect the inshore fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador and repair a relationship with fisheries workers that has eroded in the past year.”
Recent decisions made by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans have put corporate interests ahead of the inshore fish harvesters, plant workers and coastal communities. Minister Leblanc was responsible for the controversial decision on arctic surf clams which transferred jobs out of the province. The Minister did not take steps to adjust the unfair sharing of halibut on the south coast and missed an opportunity for increased access to the resource for harvesters on the province’s west coast.
“Minister Wilkinson comes from the west coast of Canada, where small-scale owner-operators are virtually non-existent and corporate interests control fish harvesting. We are hopeful the new minister will continue to work closely with eastern fisheries stakeholders to defend the owner-operator inshore fishery that is so crucial to our coastal communities,” said Sullivan.
FFAW-Unifor looks forward to meeting with Minister Wilkinson in the very near future.
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