Ball vague on pro­vin­cial con­tri­bu­tion to down­sized fish­ery fund

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMES MCLEOD

Premier Dwight Ball had no clear an­swer when it comes to how much money the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment will need to kick in for the $100-mil­lion fed­eral fish­eries devel­op­ment fund an­nounced ear­lier this month.

The fund, an­nounced March 10 by Ball and fed­eral Min­is­ter Judy Foote, dom­i­nated ques­tions in the House of Assem­bly March 14 and later ques­tions from the me­dia.

Op­po­si­tion crit­ics said that this was a raw deal for the prov­ince, be­cause the $100 mil­lion is a down­grade from the $400-mil­lion fish­eries in­no­va­tion fund which was tied to the CETA free trade deal.

“This is noth­ing less than an in­sult to New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans. Peo­ple should be out­raged,” Op­po­si­tion Leader Paul Davis said. “They’ve sold out the fish­ery.” With the $400-mil­lion fund, the prov­ince was sup­posed to kick in 30 per cent, with Ot­tawa pay­ing the other $280 mil­lion.

“Where I went to school, $280 mil­lion is way big­ger than $100 mil­lion,” New Demo­crat Leader Earle McCurdy said.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing. I mean, that’s a lot of money. We’re sup­posed to be look­ing for ev­ery penny that we can get and we’re in a very tough time in the fish­ery.”

With this new, down­graded fund, it’s clear that Ot­tawa will pay $100 mil­lion, but it’s not clear how much the prov­ince will have to pay.

Ball said the fund is flex­i­ble, and that there are no strings at­tached to the money, but the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s me­dia ma­te­ri­als tell a dif­fer­ent story.

“This is a part­ner­ship where projects will be iden­ti­fied, pri­or­i­tized and cost-shared with provinces, and where pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ments can be lever­aged,” the me­dia back­grounder said.

But when it comes to the “cost- shared with the provinces” bit, Ball didn’t have any an­swers.

He seemed to sug­gest that the prov­ince might be on the hook for 30 per cent — kick­ing in $50 mil­lion — but maybe it’ll be some­thing else.

“I think what’s im­por­tant here is you con­sult with the in­dus­try to know what spe­cific ap­pli­ca­tions and ini­tia­tives that they’re keenly in­ter­ested in,” he said.

“We’re go­ing to par­tic­i­pate, and par­tic­i­pat­ing up to 30 per cent? Well, we’ll be there. We’re pre­pared for that.”

Ball said that the pro­vin­cial con­tri­bu­tion will de­pend on what the money is spent on, and the gov­ern­ment won’t know that un­til it talks to peo­ple in the fish­ing in­dus­try and gets ap­pli­ca­tions for fund­ing. So it could be a long while un­til the pub­lic learns how much the prov­ince will con­trib­ute.

“This process could be years,” Ball said at one point, be­fore back­track­ing and say­ing that the process would start right away.

As for when the money will ac­tu­ally get spent? That’s a lit­tle vague, too, al­though Ball was able to give some­thing of a com­mit­ment.

“Yeah, you’ll see money flow­ing this year from this fund,” he said.

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