Conservatives announce fisheries plan at events in Atlantic Canada
Party pledges to consult with communities on Marine Protected Areas, rebuilding fish stocks
Conservative candidates at four separate events in Atlantic Canada on Sunday unveiled the party's plans to support the fisheries and to try to build consensus on how to restore fish stocks.
In Glace Bay, N.S., Alfie MacLeod and Eddie Orrell announced their party will consult with communities on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), commit an additional $250 million to the Small Craft Harbours program and create a "modern aquaculture act."
"We've seen how over the last four years Justin Trudeau has taken this province for granted and how his 11 Liberal MPs have failed to stand up for Nova Scotians," said Orrell, who is running in Sydney-Victoria. "The result has been a top-down, heavy-handed, Ottawa-knows-best approach that has hurt the many Canadians who rely on our fisheries."
Orrell and MacLeod, who is running in Cape Breton-Canso, were at the wharf in the Cape Breton community to meet fish harvesters. They both challenged the Trudeau government's approach to protecting Canada's ocean and coastal areas.
Orrell said the plan to restrict access to ocean waters "will negatively impact fish harvesters in Nova Scotia who depend on the fishery to support their families and their communities."
"We will repeal Liberal measures that bypass community consultation for our MPAs to ensure that the voices of coastal communities are no longer ignored," said MacLeod.
He also said the Conservatives would "work with international partners to reduce the prevalence of ghost gear," or abandoned fishing gear, which he said contributes to the world's plastics problem and entangles marine life.
In August, the Liberal government annouced it would spend $8.3 million in an effort to rid Canadian waters of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear.
Other similar events were held in St. Martins, N.B., West Point, P.E.I., and Holyrood, N.L., with local Conservative candidates, as well as in communities in British Columbia.
In Newfoundland, candidates Terry Martin and Matthew Chapman delivered many of the same remarks — word for word — when they addressed people at the wharf in Holyrood.
Chapman said he frequently hears from fish harvesters who say decisions are being made without their input. But he struggled to answer specific questions about the fisheries plan, at one point telling reporters he was a teacher and the fishery wasn't his expertise.
"It's very important for us to consult with people who this is their livelihood," he said.
Liberal candidate Ken McDonald, who is running in the Newfoundland and Labrador riding of Avalon, said he "doesn't put much credence" in the Conservative plan, noting the Harper government slashed more than $175 million from DFO's budget.
"They fired scientists because they spoke up," he said.
McDonald pointed the Liberal's record of consulting with industry on issues, including the northern shrimp stocks. He added that his government has committed to enacting a stand-alone aquaculture act.
"We want to make sure people get it right, and if they don't get it right, there will be a price to pay," he said.
The Conservative Party's fisheries plan also includes commitments to:
- Create advisory panels made up of fish harvesters, anglers, Indigenous groups and other experts to discuss rebuilding fish stocks.
- Work with industry on a strategy to prevent seafood fraud.
- Support technology and practices that aim to keep wild and farmed salmon apart.
- Rebuild wild Atlantic and Pacific salmon stocks through the Salmonid Enhancement Program and partnerships with community groups.
- Increase how much non-residents pay for the Salmon Conservation Stamp and put that money toward the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
- Finish recovery plans for critical fisheries, including how to manage predator and invasive species.
The Liberals are entering the election having held all 32 seats in Atlantic Canada since 2015.
Tracy Murphy, who has fished for lobster out of Glace Bay for 16 years, went to her community's announcement to hear about the candidates' plans.
"There's a lot going on in the industry that we could use help with, or more knowledge of," she said. "The part where [MacLeod said] he's going to Ottawa for Cape Breton and not going to be Ottawa's voice in Cape Breton, that means something, hopefully."
Murphy said the only time she saw outgoing Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner at the Glace Bay Harbour was when he was first elected. He held his seat for 19 years, but Murphy said she "kind of felt abandoned."
As of Sunday afternoon, she said she remained undecided.
"Usually, I understand a little more where I'm going to put my vote. This year, it just seems like I don't know. Maybe I'm disheartened after the last Liberal stint," she said.
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With files from Tom Ayers