A pair of fishing vessels head out from Prince Rupert on Wednesday
After four consecutive sessions away from the Council Chamber (though she did participate on three occasions by phone) Councillor Joy Thorkelson was back in her seat at City Hall on Monday evening, bringing the frequent theme of the North Coast fishery up for consideration, as she sought to move forward a resolution for Council to submit for consideration by the UBCM.
The propoasl would see Council modify it's original letter for the Fisheries Minister of March of this year into a discussion topic for the gathering of Municipal leaders and officials which will take place this September in Whistler.
Councillor Cunningham opened the discussion on the topic and provided his thoughts in support of the request, noting that all the community was asking for was equal treatment with the east coast and calling attention to the job losses in the community from last year.
Adding that the region is in a crisis when it comes to the fishery on the North Coast and how the fishermen are the ones with the best knowledge of the issues of the fishery.
"All we're asking for is parity with the East Coast ... you know the east coast has more of a thriving fishery, even though its at times it's in disarray, but it's definitely more beneficial to the communities and the individuals on the east coast. Where as in our fishery on the west coast, corporations are slowly gobbling it up and a prime example is the 500 to 600 cannery workers that were put out of work a season ago, because the fish was being process somewhere else.
If we have adjacency laws in place those fish will be handled here and create more jobs for everyone ... Right now we're in a crisis with our fishing here and I think fisherman more than anyone else know how to look after a fishery"
He noted that there has been no response as of yet from the Federal government related to the crisis on the North Coast and how the resolution may bring some action for the community.
"So far we haven't found one word from our Federal government compensating any of the fishermen at any level whether they be commercial, sport guided fishermen or anyone getting compensation for the fact that they're just shutting it down. They're taking a livelihood out of people's pockets and the government is just saying well so be it, this resolution here will bring some power back to the people on the coast and especially the fishermen and I commend Joy for brining it forward"
Councillor Thorkelson also expanded on the theme, asking for some friendly amendments towards fleet adjacency options.
She called for a start of discussion at the UBCM level and noted the recent moves by the provincial government to address the concerns with the fishery at the provincial level and how if the resolution was passed at the UBCM this fall, that it would provide an additional voice towards moving the Federal government to take action.
"What I am really hoping is that we can start a discussion at the UBCM level, the provincial government with their new fisheries committee is looking at economic impact on rural communities and trying to increase the benefits of the fishery for rural communities. It would be good if we were able to get this resolution passed at the UBCM, it would add further impetus for the economic features of this new committee"
She observed that time is of importance as the Federal government will be in election mode by next year and that this fall is the time to make their voices heard in Ottawa and strike while the iron is hot.
"Right now is the time to strike regarding the economic, we have a Federal Government that has opened up the Fisheries Act, and is changing regulations on the east coast, so it wouldn't take too much more to change regulations for our coast too. So it's the one time where we can get the provincial government could possibly, successfully lobby the federal government to change things for Pacific coast fisheries and we need to strike while the iron is hot.
So, this is why it's important resolution to go to the UBCM convention now, because the Liberals will be in election mode next year, we need to get this in this year and to ensure that this passes and UBCM again is another way that we can put our foot in the middle of the provincial government's back to put their foot in the middle of the Federal government's back to try to make things better for coastal communities"
Ms. Thorkelson's work as president of Unifor-UFAWU has kept the issue of adjacency and other concerns on the North Coast fishery high on the political agenda, not only for City Council but for the provincial and Federal governments.
Her advocacy for the fishing industry and those that work in it has long been part of her focus through her time of service on Prince Rupert City Council.
Note: The City of Prince Rupert has not made the video re-broadcast of Monday's Council session available as of yet, should they update their video record archive, we will add the Council presentation from Monday to this story.
Update: The June 25th council Video was uploaded to the City's YouTube portal on July 6, 2018
For more items of note from Monday's Council Session see our Council Timeline feature here.
A wider overview of Council discussion themes can be found here.
For more background on fishery issues on the North Coast see our Fishing Industry archive page here.
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