Talks on­go­ing with OCI over quota ex­piry: N.L. fish­eries min­is­ter

Crocker says for­mer gov­ern­ment’s deal with com­pany for For­tune had ‘no teeth’

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BY PAUL HERRIDGE

Fish­eries Min­is­ter Steve Crocker says the prov­ince has been talk­ing with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and Ocean Choice In­ter­na­tional (OCI) about a quota agree­ment that is due to ex­pire at the end of the month.

NDP MHA Lor­raine Michael raised the agree­ment in the House of Assem­bly on Dec. 6, seek­ing an­swers on gov­ern­ment’s fu­ture plans for the quo­tas.

The nine-year agree­ment was an­nounced in De­cem­ber 2007, Michael said, with one of its aims to en­sure the for­mer Fish­ery Prod­ucts In­ter­na­tional ground fish quo­tas would be landed and pro­cessed in this prov­ince.

“As re­cently as last Mon­day I was in Ot­tawa. I met with the fed­eral min­is­ter of fish­eries. It’s an is­sue that we have on­go­ing dis­cus­sions go­ing with the Gov­ern­ment of Canada and OCI at this time,” Crocker re­sponded.

Michael also brought up a com­mit­ment OCI made to the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment in 2012 to pro­vide a min­i­mum of 110 full­time jobs for at least five years at its fa­cil­ity in For­tune fol­low­ing the clo­sure of the fish plant in Marystown.

Crocker pointed out that deal had been made while the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives were in power, and not the pre­sent Lib­eral gov­ern­ment.

“That agree­ment has never lived up to its full po­ten­tial,” Crocker said. “One of the rea­sons that agree­ment has never lived up to its full po­ten­tial is be­cause the previous ad­min­is­tra­tion never put any teeth in the agree­ment. So there was never any way that gov­ern­ment could en­force the agree­ment that was brought in to the OCI For­tune sit­u­a­tion.”

Crocker re­peated it was the past gov­ern­ment who signed off on the agree­ments in 2007 and 2012 when pressed by Michael on whether the Lib­er­als deemed the com­pany to have met its obli­ga­tions to For­tune.

Crocker ac­knowl­edged the 2012 deal still has one year re­main­ing.

“We’re go­ing to ex­plore ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to en­sure max­i­mum em­ploy­ment for the peo­ple of For­tune,” he said.

Dur­ing the ex­change, Crocker said he has met with OCI sev­eral times since be­com­ing fish­eries min­is­ter about a year ago and would be join­ing Burin-Grand Bank MHA Carol Anne Ha­ley for a meet­ing with plant work­ers in For­tune this past Fri­day.

TC ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Fish­eries Min­is­ter Steve Crocker was plan­ning to join Burin-Grand Bank MHA Carol Anne Ha­ley for a meet­ing with plant work­ers in For­tune this past Fri­day.

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