Liberals close book on crab loan experiment
Crab fishermen owed over $20 million
The Liberal government on Prince Edward Island is ending an expensive government experiment to create a crab processing industry in the province, recouping millions for provincial coffers.
In 2004 and 2005, the then governing Progressive Conservatives devised a plan to increase the amount of snow crab available to Island processors.
The province bankrolled eight fishermen for close to $15 million even though the Treasury Board and the P.E.I. Lending Agency turned them down.
In a 2009 special audit, the Auditor General reported the eight fishermen had paid a high price for the snow crab licenses and then stocks collapsed and Ottawa cut quota.
The fishermen couldn't pay the money back. By 2009, outstanding loans and interests totalled $17 million.
That number has climbed to over $20 million.
On Monday, Innovation Minister Alan Roach said the government has sold off two of the licenses and the other six fishermen were able to refinance loans without government aid.
Roach said he believes the government will recover much of the original investment.
"I feel confident that we're going to realize the principle on all those loans and we'll have to see how much of the outstanding interest there is at the end of this," he said.
Fisherman and Liberal MLA Charlie McGeoghegan said he has always been critical of the venture.
"The principal amount was around $15 million and it looks like we’re going to get most of that back if not all," he said.
"It is probably the best outcome for taxpayers."
Roach said he doesn't know where the snow crab licenses have gone or how much quota remains on the Island.
It's not known how much, or if any, crab will be processed in Island plants.