Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Canfisco closure raised in Monday session of Legislature

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice
raised the Canfisco canning line
closure at the Legislature on
Monday afternoon
North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice spoke Monday in the Legislature on the impact of the recently announced closure by Canadian Fishing Company of its canning operation at Prince Rupert's Oceanside Plant.

Taking part in the afternoon Question Period, Ms. Rice outlined the nature of the job losses that could be facing the company, a number estimated at anywhere between 500 and 1,200 direct and  indirect jobs that could be affected by the decision to end canning at the Prince Rupert plant.

Ms. Rice addressed her comments to the Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick, reviewing for the Legislature as to the shock that Thursday's announcement has left in the community and how it will have a wide ranging impact across many communities of the Northwest.

With the North Coast MLA asking the Minister what steps the Provincial government was intending to take, in order to provide assistance to those that are facing the end their employment at the large Prince Rupert cannery.

However, for those looking for some guidance from the government as to what kind of immediate  response, if any, that they have for the current situation in Prince Rupert, the reply would prove more than a little disappointing.

Mr. Letnick started out on what appeared to be the right path, offering comments that outlined some sense of empathy for those that would be losing their jobs, making note that there was still no firm number provided by Canadian Fish as to the amount of the job loss.

For the most part he spoke to the same themes as those delivered by Canfisco's Rob Morley last Thursday, with observations about changes in the industry and the issue of markets for canned salmon. Mr. Letnick noting for the Chamber that he was hoping that the company might find other uses for the employees at the plant.

Agriculture Minister Norman Letnick
fielding questions on the closure
of the Canfisco canning lines
during Question Period Monday
The moments of empathy though seemed to end right about there, as the Minister then took a bit of a tone deaf approach to the nature of the immediate issues facing the soon to be unemployed residents North Coast.

For some reason, Minister Letnick chose that moment to seemingly use the job losses in the Prince Rupert area, to reinforce the Liberal provincial jobs agenda tied into LNG development and other initiatives in other regions of the province.

Doubling down further on the rhetoric, Mr. Letnick then shifted to a favourite Liberal approach in the chamber of late, that of a string of observations on the nature of the NDP always saying No to industrial options in the province.

Topics that on another day perhaps might be worthy of a discussion and review, but not just a few days after a large number of residents of the North Coast are now wondering what their fate in the months to come might be.

Monday afternoon instead, saw Mr. Letnick offer no actual information, or indication as to whether, he or the Liberal government has even given much thought to the full impact on the region of the announcement from Thursday.

Instead, he and by their applause his fellow Liberals on the government side of the Legislature, chose this time for another sample of the toxic partisanship that too often makes for what passes as discussion these days in the Chamber.

Ms. Rice was quick to take issue with the tone and the Government approach on the issue, reminding the Minister that these jobs that will be lost are ones that already exist and that tomorrow's theoretical  jobs will do nothing to pay today's bills.

From the Question Period review, the Minister and the Liberal Government might want to take note of how they looked here, as the tone taken may have offered up many themes to consider, but one of them wasn't leadership.

There was no indication of the prospect of further discussion with the MLA and representatives of the community as to what might be done for those that may lose their jobs, or if the provincial government was inclined to engage itself and approach the Federal Government on the issues of a fishing industry that still continues to face many challenges.

On Monday, the Minister used the very serious issue of a community watching a huge number of jobs getting ready to disappear, as some kind of opportunity to score political points. Reducing a chamber supposedly there for serious discussion of issues, into one of empty words bouncing around what is becoming an echo chamber of pontification from both sides of the Legislature.

None of which solves the very real problems of the people who have elected them.

The transcript of the Monday afternoon Question Period is available from Draft Minutes of the Legislature Archive page, the discussion on Prince Rupert's job losses begins shortly after the 14:30 mark

You can review the full exchange between Ms. Rice and Minister Letnick below:

For more items related to political developments out of Victoria see our archive page here.

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