November 21, 2002
The following statement was issued today by Premier Roger Grimes. It was also read in the House of Assembly:
I want to respond to the recent reports out of Ottawa, regarding the potential closure of certain cod fisheries in the province.
Late yesterday afternoon, I heard via the media, of the briefing that the federal minister made to his Atlantic caucus regarding the state of cod stocks in the northern and southern gulf. It was then reported there is a very real probability that these fisheries will close in the 2003 season This is something which we have all feared for the past couple of years.
I recognize the concern of these past several years on the projected status of those stocks. I am offended that the federal minister, did not contact the Minister of Fisheries. It is simply unacceptable.
I have great concern that the federal minister has made this judgement in the absence of consultation with the provinces, but more significantly, in the absence of the final report from the FRCC - an organization which consults with stakeholders and analyses scientific data, for the purpose of providing advice to the federal minister on all of the fisheries in the province.
The FRCC are, at this very moment, still conducting consultations throughout the province on the very fisheries we are talking about today. It is offensive that the minister chose to make statements about the future of these fisheries prior to the recommendations of the FRCC. Rather, it would have been prudent and responsible for the minister to wait for his own scientific advice, prior to making these statements which are devastating for this province.
As is always the case, our main concern and priority will be protecting the best interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We will not wait for a year until the federal government is ready to turn its attention to those people and communities who will be gravely impacted by such a decision.
I am very troubled by the absence of any reference to compensation, and I can assure the people of the province, that we will be addressing this with the federal government.
It is also very discouraging to see our federal minister continue to ignore the best interests of this province’s fishery. He has on several occasions demonstrated his indifference to the interests of the fishery - he rejected outright, our position on custodial management, and rejected that same recommendation from his own House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans; he accepted the final report of the Independent Panel on Access Criteria (IPAC), which was completely contrary to this province’s position, and the proposals and recommendations we put forward to that committee; and, most recently he appointed an MP from Ontario as the new chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans - a position which heads the committee which impacts our province and region, more than any other in the country.
These examples, along with a continued inability to deal with foreign overfishing, show clearly that the federal government is not managing the fishery in a manner which maximizes benefits for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This is not and will never be, acceptable to our province.
This issue is much too important to be politicized - indeed, it is a time to put politics aside, and for all of us to come together to address the situation at hand.
As Premier, I am calling on all Newfoundland and Labrador federal MPs and senators to come to the province on an urgent basis for an emergency meeting with the provincial government and the opposition party leaders . It is vital that we have a comprehensive discussion for the purpose of developing proper and appropriate redress for those who will be most seriously impacted by this situation. I am hopeful and confident that by coming together, we can work as a province, as we face this time of potential crisis in our fishery.
In a moment the government will put forward a resolution requesting that the house suspend regular house business, for an emergency debate on this urgent issue related to our fishery. I would ask unanimous acceptance of this resolution by all members of this honourable house.
2002 11 21 1:50 p.m.