February 10, 2005
(Executive Council)

Provincial government demonstrates commitment to Harbour Breton

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is continuing to help the community of Harbour Breton, as residents adjust to the closure of the Fisheries Products International fish plant.

Premier Danny Williams hosted a meeting Wednesday afternoon in St. John�s with senior provincial government officials and a delegation from Harbour Breton. During the meeting, he committed to finding a solution to the problems in Harbour Breton, including providing financial assistance. The Premier explained that the government recognizes the circumstances facing Harbour Breton and that a Ministerial Committee has been formed to work with the community.

Meeting participants included Trevor Taylor, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture; Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development; and Jack Byrne, Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. Joining the ministers were Oliver Langdon, the MHA for Fortune Bay � Cape La Hune; Don Stewart, Mayor of Harbour Breton; Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union; Eric Day, president of the union local; David Vardy, Chair of the Industrial Adjustment Services (IAS) Committee; and other town and union representatives.

Premier Williams is encouraged by the discussions and pledged that the provincial government would continue to help facilitate a positive outcome to a difficult situation.

�Harbour Breton and the Connaigre Peninsula are looking to government for support, and we are doing what is within our limited means to help,� said the premier. �We have said all along that we will stand up for rural Newfoundland and Labrador. We will work with the company, with the union, with the community and with the federal government to explore viable options. We can provide some financial relief to help preserve the future of Harbour Breton. We are committed to doing what we can to improve the quality of life in our province.�

Government is also mindful that the real issue behind the closure of the Harbour Breton facility is that the groundfish stocks around Newfoundland and Labrador�s coast have been decimated and have not recovered. Commercial fishing of northern cod stocks, which are managed by the federal government, was closed 13 years ago, and communities such as Harbour Breton are still adjusting to this reality. The improper management of groundfish stocks is the fundamental reason that a number of fish plants are facing a difficult future. The federal government must continue to participate in this community adjustment.

�The provincial government has been extremely supportive of the Harbour Breton community from the start. We�ve been providing funding for an engineering study, for emergency assistance for workers whose Employment Insurance was expiring and for initial meeting costs. Our staff have been involved with committees, economic development support and training sessions. Minister Taylor went to Harbour Breton in December, and now we�ve met with local officials in St. John�s. We will continue to maintain open lines of communication and to look out for the interests of Harbour Breton, the Connaigre Peninsula and rural Newfoundland and Labrador.�

Minister Taylor is encouraged by the government�s financial support and is mindful of the need for long-term planning. �I�m pleased that we continue to demonstrate our commitment to rural Newfoundland and Labrador,� said the minister. �We are doing what is within our capacity to address the inevitable impact of a lack of raw material in the water. We face some significant challenges because, as the Dunne Report pointed out, there are too many fish plants to process too few fish. We need to continue to make strategic decisions and find innovative solutions. We are going to carry on helping to find a positive outcome not only in Harbour Breton, but in communities such as Fortune and Englee.�

Minister Taylor also commented on the issue of quotas: �The province will support Harbour Breton in its efforts to acquire access to fish as part of its overall business plan. It is too early to determine what this business case may look like, but the community has asked for our support to acquire quotas of various species. It is important for the community to come forward with a viable proposal. This could include offshore fish, fish from the inshore or perhaps aquaculture fish. We will assist them in this regard and provide whatever support is required.�

Media contact:
    Ken Morrissey, Office of the Premier, (709) 729-4304
    Alex Marland, Fisheries and Aquaculture, (709) 729-3733, 690-6047

2005 02 10                     5:20 p.m.

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