Call­ing for free en­ter­prise in the fish­ery

The Compass - - OPINION - David Boyd writes from Twill­ingate.

As I write this, I am mo­men­tar­ily dis­tracted by three sea ot­ters play­ing in the blue water sur­round­ing my fish­ing stage, but only mo­men­tar­ily, as my thoughts on this beau­ti­ful spring morn­ing are with the peo­ple of Jack­son’s Arm, Sal­vage, Hant’s Har­bour and other fish­ing vil­lages around the province who have re­cently re­ceived the news that their fish plant has been sold — not to be re­opened un­der new own­er­ship — but to be closed, per­haps for­ever.

I can em­pathize with the ache that must be in the hearts of those peo­ple af­fected. The un­cer­tainty of the fu­ture. Hav­ing to tear up roots that have been firmly planted for gen­er­a­tions. Fam­i­lies torn asun­der and hearts bro­ken at hav­ing to leave chil­dren and grand­chil­dren evokes painful im­ages of the re­set­tle­ment pro­gram — one of the dark­est pages in our his­tory.

To quote the government: “This is just the re­al­ity of change caused by mar­ket forces in the in­dus­try.”

If in­deed I thought this to be the case, I would not be tak­ing time to write this morn­ing. In my mind what is hap­pen­ing in the fish­ery and the tragedy of our coastal vil­lages is the re­sult of government pol­icy in­flu­enced by cor­po­rate forces in­tended to con­sol­i­date the wealth of the oceans in the hands of a very few in­di­vid­u­als, who care noth­ing for any­body or any­thing other than them­selves.

If this is not the case, I chal­lenge the pre­mier and her cab­i­net to, as Ron­ald Re­gan fa­mously said, “Tear down those walls!”

The walls I re­fer to are the walls of pro­tec­tion­ism that so­lid­i­fies and pro­tects the mo­nop­oly of the New­found­land fish mer­chants and de­nies the very ba­sis of democ­racy in the fish­ery — com­pe­ti­tion and a free mar­ket.

I chal­lenge the government, for the sake of the peo­ple and their own per­sonal legacy, to send a clear mes­sage far and wide — New­found­land is open for busi­ness. Have an idea for a small pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity for which you are will­ing to take the fi­nan­cial risk? We wel­come you.

At present, government is hand­cuffed by the power of the fish mer­chants as­so­ci­a­tion, and must ob­tain their per­mis­sion for ev­ery move, whether at­tempt­ing to find new mar­kets, al­low fish­er­men to tem­po­rar­ily sell her­ring or sea urchins to Mar­itime buy­ers.

I am aware that government of­fi­cials are sick and tired of hear­ing from me on this is­sue, and I am sick and tired of writ­ing, but un­til the winds of free en­ter­prise and democ­racy are al­lowed in the fish­ery as in other ar­eas of en­ter­prise in this province, I shall have no choice but to fight for free­dom as did my fore­fa­thers who fought for free­dom in the mud and muck of Vimy and Dieppe.

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