“I was hungry and you gave me to eat. Thirsty and you gave me to drink...” We may not say them —or even think about them — every day. But when it comes to the Corporal Works of Mercer, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians do something better; we put them into practice, in spades.
Instead of preaching about what the government or someone else should be doing to help those in need, we put our money, our time and our talent where are mouths are. We’re nationally recognized for our giving nature.
On a per capitia basis, we generally lead the country in contributions to worthy causes. One does not have to look very far to find examples of our generous nature. In ordinary times of peace and relative prosperity, we give more than our fare share. But it is in those extraordinary times that we really shine.
The hardship caused to so many by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Igor is a prime example of one of those extraordinary times.
When the people of Catalina on the north side of Trinity Bay were cut off from the rest of civilization and starting to run low on food, water and the necessities of life, the people of Old Perlican and area collected and sent a boatload of supplies to help their stricken friends across the bay. It was an act of human kindness that brought clergy to tears.
A few days after that VOCM raised over a $1 million for the Igor disaster relief fund during a day-long, province-wide radio-a-thon. That extraordinary effort was a hard act to follow for any other major fundraising event coming after it. As generous as we are, there are only so many charitable dollars to go around.
Under the circumstances, organizers of the 21st Trinity-Conception-Placentia Health Foundation Telethon were understandably a little anxious over the outcome of their event. Chief organizer Don Coombs even admitted, he thought their numbers might be down this year. “But the people proved me wrong again,” he told us last week.
Instead of being down, the telethon actually exceeded its goal again this year. In fact, there was only one time in its 21-year history, a couple of years ago, when the event did not reach its target that year.
Through the telethon and the foundation’s other fundraising events, the people of Trinity-Conception have contributed over $7 million towards health care equipment over the past two decades.
Another example of our generosity knowing no bounds. Dear editor,
There has been a lot said in the media in recent months about fisheries rationalization, as if it was some kind of goal in itself.
The approach the FFAW/CAW has taken in meetings related to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the processors and the provincial government is that incomes in the fishing industry are too low and economic returns for fishing enterprise owners are too low and too unstable.
Our goal is to improve the incomes of people working in both the fish plants and aboard fishing vessels, and provide the economic basis for sustainable fisheries, sustainable fishing enterprises and sustainable communities.
Done properly, fleet rationalization is a tool that can help achieve that goal. The most important word to stress up front is “voluntary.” Fleet rationalization is not about a head count or some kind of bureaucratic numbers game.
There are clearly significant numbers of enterprise owners who would like the opportunity to retire from the fishery. This has been made very clear in surveys our union conducted amongst the membership. The simplest way to achieve this would be through a licence buyout, but the federal government, unfortunately, is missing in action.
Enterprise combining, the solution offered
I am a Newfoundland writer (Domino, Tsunami, Sheilagh’s Brush) who is writing a biography of Captain Bob Bartlett.
I would love to hear from anyone who met Bartlett or has anything they feel would be useful to contribute.
While Bartlett’s Arctic heroics will be included in the book, I am much more interested up by the two levels of government in 2007, has not worked in most cases, because it results in way too much debt in the combined enterprise. That’s where the MOU comes in. It provides an opportunity for a government/industry cost-shared fleet reduction program, on a strictly voluntary basis.
If there are fewer participants in a particular fishery, that means increased revenue for those who remain — the pie does not have to be divided into so many pieces. Increased gross revenue is only of value if the improvement is not wiped out by higher debt load.
A fleet reduction over several years would also be beneficial to plant workers, and to the processing sector as a whole. A smaller fleet would reduce peak landings and spread the work out more evenly over the processing season. This would reduce the demand for casual workers and increase the amount of work available for the core workforce.
Dividing the pie into fewer pieces is only part of the solution. We also have to make the pie bigger. That is where fundamental change in our sales and marketing structure is needed. That element is critical to the MOU.
The most controversial issue under the MOU process is processing sector rationalization. There is a legitimate fear among harvesters that this would reduce competition for raw material, and a legitimate fear among plant workers that they would be left high and dry if a plant closed.
The FFAW’s position is that any rationalization in the processing sector would require that several pre-conditions be met: fleet rationalization would have to be underway first, because the current plant capacity is needed for the current fleet capacity; a fullfledged worker adjustment program, including an early retirement option, would have to be in place for affected plant workers; fundamental changes to our approach to sales and marketing, including full transparency about market prices and trends, would have to be in place; government would have to reconfirm the pivotal role of the Standing Fish Price-Setting Panel to resolve any price disputes that may arise; any program would have to ensure that adequate capacity exists, region by region, to ensure a competitive port market with harvesters in all sizes of vessels having reasonable access to a market for their catch.
The current situation is not sustainable. It doesn’t provide reasonable incomes. It doesn’t provide any stability to fishing enterprises and communities. Change won’t come easy, but the status quo is clearly not a solution. We would be letting down future generations of rural Newfoundlanders and Labradorians if we didn’t face the challenge head on.
Earle McCurdy President, FFAW/CAW