Nova Scotia

N.S. fisheries minister demands answers on cuts

Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau says he wants answers from the federal government on how cuts to marine science offices and changes to the Employment Insurance program will affect the province.

Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau says he wants answers from the federal government on how cuts to marine science offices and changes to the Employment Insurance program will affect the province.

Belliveau said his department is drafting a letter to his federal counterpart — Keith Ashfield — seeking more information on the loss of researchers specializing in fisheries science.

"We want to clarify that position. Are we weakening the science when it comes to marine ecosystems and related issues like that?" he told reporters on Thursday.

"I think that this is something important to Atlantic Canada. We want to know the answer."

Belliveau said he hears complaints every day about what the federal government is up to. He wants to know more about the effect of changes to the EI system and how those will play out in a region that relies heavily on the program.

He said fisheries groups have been concerned for months, since the federal government released a discussion paper about overhauling rules for commercial fisheries — and there was no mention of a long-standing policies that prevent large companies from controlling inshore and midshore quota licences and processing.

"If they move in that direction to weaken any of these positions, then it's going to have a drastic effect on our coastal communities," said Belliveau.

Belliveau said he expects to drop his letter to Ashfield in the mail this week.

Ashfield has said the federal government is looking to establish an advisory group that will provide advice on priority issues, and that the changes were part of the government's "common sense approach to managing the fishery."

The federal government announced it would cut the operational budget of Fisheries and Oceans Canada by $79.3 million over three years, involving a cut of about 400 people from its workforce.

Ottawa also announced broad changes to the EI program last week, which will require regular recipients to consider lower paying jobs that could require a commute of up to an hour.

With files from The Canadian Press

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