May 8, 2003
The following statement was issued today by Premier Roger Grimes. It was also read in the House of Assembly.
Premier to introduce resolution regarding amending the Terms of Union
As every Newfoundlander and Labradorian knows, the fishery has been the lifeblood of this place for more than 500 years. The fishery provided sustenance for the early aboriginal peoples who inhabited this land, and it was the foundation for our early colonial settlement. Today�s modern fishery is the principal employer and economic base of most of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
It has been said that we, as a people, take our strength from the sea. The groundfish moratoria of the early 1990s shook this Province socially, culturally and economically. But we are a strong people. We bounced back. We took the hard decisions and we took risks. We developed a new fishery that represents a vibrant, modern industry. A modern industry with vital links to our past.
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were therefore justifiably proud in the late 1990s when the federal Minister reopened the Northern and Gulf cod fisheries. We took it as a sign that recovery was occurring, that federal fisheries management would not let us down again.
Unfortunately, we were wrong. The latest decision of the federal Minister to again close the Northern cod fishery and place the Gulf cod stock under moratoria was therefore a shock to all of us. It has fundamentally undermined our confidence in federal fisheries management, but it has not challenged our resilience as a people.
This Government has been clear in its position on the recent federal decision. This decision was not well thought out. It was a wrong decision. The decision to close the Gulf cod fishery flies in the face of expert advice from the minister�s own Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, and it ignores the advice that all the parties in this Honourable House worked hard to prepare through the All Party process. Again, we have had a "made in Ottawa decision" thrust upon us without regard and respect for the consensus of the people of this Province and the parties of this House.
In defending his position, the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has said that he must err on the side of conservation, and he did what was necessary to allow for the rebuilding of the Northern and Gulf cod stocks. We reject this view. What is required is a comprehensive recovery plan for these stocks, not simply moratoria. We need a full strategy that seeks to improve fisheries science and deals with key issues like seal predation and foreign overfishing. We are convinced that a modest commercial fishery can also be part of such a comprehensive recovery plan, as it will provide us with valuable data and practical knowledge that would not otherwise be available. We are disappointed and offended that, in the 11 years since the original northern cod moratorium, the Government of Canada has been unable to come up with a comprehensive plan to ensure the recovery of this stock.
This situation can no longer be allowed to stand. Time is running out to save our fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador. There must be a new approach to the management of fisheries adjacent to our shores. One that ensures the people of this Province have a meaningful say in management decisions. One that provides a solid foundation for stock recovery. One that recognizes that fisheries were managed responsibly by the Dominion of Newfoundland before our entry into Canada, and one that respects the experience and concerns of the people whose livelihoods depend upon this resource.
To this end, later this afternoon I will rise in this Honourable House and will give notice of motion on one of the most important resolutions we have ever had to consider. That resolution will direct the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to seek a formal amendment to the Terms of Union providing for shared and equal constitutional authority between the Governments of Canada and this Province over fisheries adjacent to our shores. It will also propose that we negotiate and constitutionally entrench a new joint management fisheries board to manage these resources. This resolution will also provide the foundation for new conservation and recovery plans aimed at achieving the long-term sustainability of these fisheries and new measures to improve our collective knowledge and understanding of fisheries science.
I look forward to the rigorous debate that I am certain we will have on this important resolution that I will introduce later in these proceedings.
2003 05 08 1:30 p.m.