A deft hand on the wheel and the throt­tle

The Compass - - OPINION -

I think it is safe to say a large per­cent­age of the ru­ral pop­u­la­tion of New­found­land and Labrador was pleas­antly sur­prised by the Wil­liams govern­ment’s an­nounce­ment of $14 mil­lion for fish­eries re­search.

Even those who are not in­volved di­rectly in the fish­ery, but are far re­moved from the cap­i­tal city, are doubt­less de­lighted to see an an­nounce­ment in­di­cat­ing the top floor of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Build­ing is aware there is life out here. Af­ter a num­ber of an­nounce­ments that took away things from ru­ral parts of the prov­ince, the change is more than wel­come. Bravo to the Wil­liams’ govern­ment. And a spe­cial bravo to the peo­ple of Flower’s Cove who set the alarm clock that woke the govern­ment from their dreams of end­less bar­rels of oil, paving the road to pros­per­ity for ur­ban places. Pleas­ant dreams no doubt, but ones that ex­clude nearly half the pop­u­la­tion, those who dwell be­yond the warm glow of street­lights il­lu­mi­nat­ing that favoured uni­verse within the over­pass.

So, an an­nounce­ment the govern­ment is fund­ing a re­search crew on the fish­ery, skip­pered by Ge­orge Rose, made peo­ple doz­ing in rock­ers around the bay sit up and take no­tice. This was some­thing. Ge­orge Rose. The man’s name is syn­ony­mous with ex­cel­lence in re­search lead­ing to clear and in­ci­sive rec­om­men­da­tions for ac­tion. He un­der­stands not just what makes the fish­ery tick, but the cru­cial im­por­tance of the sur­vival of all the species in­volved, ru­ral fish­ers and fish­ery work­ers among them.

With Ge­orge Rose at its head, the cre­ation of a fish­ery’s re­search unit sends a sig­nal to all who care to lis­ten the Govern­ment of New­found­land and Labrador is aware of the piv­otal role the fish­ery can play in guar­an­tee­ing the long term pros­per­ity of this prov­ince.

For hun­dreds of years the fish­ery was the back­bone of this place, and many be­lieve it can be again, con­tin­u­ing long af­ter the last drop of oil has been sucked from be­neath the seabed. Prop­erly man­aged with re­al­is­tic quo­tas, taken by hu­man power rather than huge ma­chines and de­struc­tive gear, this in­dus­try has what it takes to be­come once again the heart­beat that can en­er­gize this place for­ever.

That can surely hap­pen if the govern­ment is not only aware of the cen­tral role of the fish­ery, but pre­pared to be­come a hands-on par­tic­i­pant by pass­ing leg­is­la­tion that en­ables the fish­ery to pros­per by be­com­ing the source of the great­est good for the great­est num­ber.

The solid sci­ence Ge­orge Rose will bring to the ta­ble is a cru­cial el­e­ment. A nec­es­sary first step. But with­out the recog­ni­tion un­fet­tered cap­i­tal­ism and con­cen­tra­tion of wealth in a few hands is the wrong di­rec­tion to take, the $14 mil­lion will have been money wasted.

We do not need to re­turn to the bad old days when a hand­ful of Wa­ter Street mer­chants dic­tated the stan­dard of liv­ing of the ma­jor­ity. We don’t need that.

What we do need is more, not fewer peo­ple in more, not fewer places mak­ing a fair pay­cheque from catch­ing and pro­cess­ing fewer not more tonnes of prod­uct, un­til the stocks re­turn to healthy lev­els. This we can do by us­ing more hu­man power and fewer costly ma­chines to cre­ate ready to eat food of the high­est qual­ity in quan­ti­ties that are sus­tain­able, and by mar­ket­ing them to con­sumers who rec­og­nize the value of what we har­vest from the deep cold, clean wa­ters along­side our shores.

If this is the goal of a pol­icy whose first step was the es­tab­lish­ment of the Ge­orge Rose sci­en­tific crew, then the govern­ment of the prov­ince is chart­ing the cor­rect course.

But even on the cor­rect course, haz­ards are in­evitable.

We must be pre­pared for a re­ac­tion from the fed­eral govern­ment that fish­eries pol­icy is the con­sti­tu­tional ter­ri­tory of Ot­tawa, not the prov­inces.

This is not a hid­den haz­ard, it is printed plainly on the chart. It is a le­gal shoal that must be pru­dently nav­i­gated.

The nav­i­ga­tor stand­ing on the bridge atop the good ship ‘Con­fed­er­a­tion Build­ing’ has a habit of mo­tor­ing at full speed. He has a habit of pick­ing fights and call­ing those who don’t share his views un­men­tion­able names. This is nei­ther the time nor place for that. Ev­ery­one in this prov­ince can tell sto­ries about some of the ill-con­ceived and fool­ish things done by DFO. They are as ob­vi­ous as say­ing win­ter is colder than sum­mer.

But when we are in­evitably chal­lenged by Ot­tawa, it will do no good to sing out in cho­rus: ‘Come near at your peril DFO wolf ’. We have.

It will be time for a deft hand on the wheel and the throt­tle, vary­ing full speed and dead slow, neu­tral and yes, some­times even go­ing astern. We have made a good start and the des­ti­na­tion is a re­ward­ing one.

Good luck to us all.

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