Thursday, November 27, 2008

West coast fishery stakeholders anxious to meet the new minister

The decision of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to appoint yet another Atlantic Canadian to the position of Fisheries Minister isn’t receiving much in the way of support from opposition members based in British Columbia.

Both Liberal and NDP MP’s based on the west coast are questioning if Gail Shea is the right person for the job at this time of crisis in the fishery. Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen expressed concern over the tradition of optimists that head into the portfolio eventually overwhelmed by the DFO bureaucracy and rendered invisible when the major issues come to the forefront.

The Daily News outlined the details on Shea’s appointment and the feedback from the west coast that she can expect until concrete steps are taken to address the many issues of the fishery.

The story was the front page, headline feature in Thursday’s paper.

Gail Shea being urged to visit West Coast to find out first-hand about local problems
BY Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Thursday, November 27,
Pages one and two

With nearly every fisheries group on Canada's Northwest coast in agreement that management changes are desperately needed across all sectors, it would reason that there could not be a better time for the appointment of a new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to appoint a rookie Member of Parliament, Prince Edward Island's Egmont MP Gail Shea, to the cabinet position has both NDP and Liberal MPs in British Columbia wondering if she was the best choice.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said he always tries to remain an optimistic person, but having another Fisheries Minister from the East Coast does not initially fill him with hope.

"We have a new minister, untested and from the East Coast, going into that hornets' nest that is the DFO, who will try and warp her into the same mold they've warped every other
Fisheries Minister into," said Cullen.

"Hope might win out over experience here and she'll actually bring some of her own intelligence to bear and not just do what the department tells her, but it hasn't been the tradition and this is not a high-profile minister at all."

Before being elected federally last month, Shea had been a Member of the Prince Edward Island Legislature for Tignish-DeBlois since 2000.

In that role, she was a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, during which time she served as Minister of Community and Cultural Affairs (2000-03) and Minister of Transportation and Public Works (2003 - 2007).

This past Friday was the global celebration of World Fisheries Day.

Minister Shea took the opportunity to release her first statement in her new cabinet role.

Highlighting the importance of maintaining healthy Canadian fish stocks as a vital component of the Canadian economy and the livelihood of many Canadian families, Minister Shea said Canada will always led by example when it comes to the sustainable management of fisheries.

"Canada also continues to play a leadership role when it comes to strengthening international guide: lines for the management of deep sea fisheries in the high seas, which is crucial to conserving and rebuilding fish stocks in the world's oceans," said Shea.

"Our government will continue to protect a sustainable fishery through enforcement of conservation rules and management measures."

Cullen said that he and other MPs are going to hand-deliver an invitation to Shea, inviting her out to their West Coast ridings so that she can see the fishing industry first-hand and form a better understanding of the issues facing B.C. fishermen.

"That's going to be our first approach, and then we'll get into the specifics of the reforms that are needed," said Cullen.

"Unless she wants to be tagged as an 'East Coast-only Fisheries Minister' she's going to have to get on the plane and maybe get on a boat or two."

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