Union hopes new fisheries minister has longer shelf life

Wednesday's cabinet shuffle saw yet another minister move into the fisheries portfolio. And the province's fisheries union hopes the new boss will stick around for awhile.

Keith Hutchings seventh minister in seven years

Dave Decker says the union is hopeful that there will be an open dialogue with the new minister about the priorities in the fisheries. (CBC)

Wednesday's cabinet shuffle saw yet another minister move into the fisheries portfolio.

And the province's fisheries union hopes the new boss will stay in the job longer than his predecessors.

Keith Hutchings is the seventh minister in as many years to take on the billion-dollar portfolio.

Keith Hutchings took on the fisheries portfolio in Wednesday's cabinet shuffle. (CBC)

Dave Decker, secretary-treasurer with the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, said he hopes there will be an open dialogue with Hutchings about problems facing the fishery.

"We have a new minister, and I'm certainly looking forward to sitting down with the new minister and trying to get the priorities that we have, and trying to get these priorities moved forward," Decker said.

"It's a time for moving forward — clearly a time for moving forward. I'm serious that our communities are at stake here. There's huge change coming and we're not prepared for that change, but we do have time."

According to Decker, there are a lot of problems facing the fishery.

"We've got significant challenges in terms of coming at us again right now. The kind of challenges that, quite frankly, we saw in the early '90s when we shifted from groundfish to shellfish," he said.

"It's very clear, I think in everybody's minds right now, that we're shifting back to a groundfish regime. With that comes challenges and opportunities, but we need to be prepared for it. We need to be prepared for it and we need, in terms of a department, that's really focused on that and helping in terms of finding solutions."

Opposition skeptical

Liberal MHA Dwight Ball said he doubts the Tory government takes the fishery seriously.

"Shuffling those ministers in and out of that office really clearly says and states that this government really does not understand the fisheries portfolio," he said.

According to Ball, a lack of understanding of the fishery means a lack of understanding of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

"They [rural communities] are asking … that the fishery would be part of any rural development that we see in this province."

Dale Kirby says the province's fisheries have not been a priority for the Tory government. (CBC)

NDP MHA Dale Kirby said the fishery is low on the list of priorities for the Tories.

"Their process, their policy, their perspective on the fishery has been one of managing decline," Kirby said.

"In the last election campaign, plants such as Marystown … those issues were going to be resolved. The premier said herself that plant has a future [but] that plant has no future under this government, as do a whole bunch of other plants that have already closed."

Kirby said it's unfortunate that yet another minister has taken over the fisheries portfolio, but adds he's not surprised.

"They have done very little in rural Newfoundland, period, when it comes to managing the economy, diversifying it, and making sure that there's a future for families."


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