Hard-hit lobster fishing communities throughout Atlantic Canada and Quebec can count on additional financial support from the federal government’s Community Adjustment Fund, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea announced on Friday.
"There is no question that the global recession has taken a toll on Eastern Canada's lobster fishery," said Shea, an MP from Prince Edward Island. "As an Islander myself, I understand all too well the kinds of strains that the collapse in lobster prices is putting on workers and families in our province and region. The Community Adjustment Fund is specifically designed to help those who are hardest hit seize new economic opportunities so they can weather this economic storm. We will be there for the people who need us most."
The Harper government is directing $10 million from the CAF to improve marketing, assist in innovation, and develop products and technologies. The funding will be provided from the Community Adjustment Fund (CAF), through ACOA and CED-Q (Economic Development for Quebec Regions), for the marketing and promotion of lobster. "This program is designed to target the hardest hit industries and communities throughout Atlantic Canada," said Keith Ashfield, the minister responsible for ACOA. "Our top priority is now to ensure this money flows to the people who need it as quickly and efficiently as possible."
Shea also announced that governments and industry will collaborate in a lobster development council to increase domestic and international market access and support the industry in reaching the eco-certification standards necessary to increase their global markets. "I am working closely with my federal and provincial colleagues and the industry to deliver the assistance that the lobster fishery needs to weather the global economic crisis," said Shea. "By working together we will see these challenging times through."
Canada's Economic Action Plan provides $1 billion over two years for the CAF, which will help create jobs and maintain employment in affected communities. The program is being delivered across Canada by ACOA, CED-Q and other regional economic development agencies through new initiatives, existing programs, and bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories.
Not everyone is impressed by the announcement.
The funding announced by Fisheries Minister Gail Shea fails to provide the short-term help lobster fishermen need and won’t help them balance their losses in the long term says New Democrat fisheries critic Peter Stoffer. “These fishermen and their families are at the end of their rope,” said Stoffer, MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore, N.S. “They need money to balance their losses and provide for their families in the short-term. Their needs are not being met by this re-announcement of funds.”
Stoffer says he and his colleague, Yvon Godin (MP Acadie-Bathurst) have been pushing the government to allow lobster fisherman to base their EI claims on last year’s catch, and for the government to introduce an insurance program like farmers crop insurance. “Not only is the Harper government failing to help lobster fishermen who want to work through this economic crisis, the Conservatives are also refusing to make much needed changes to the EI system so that they will be able to support their families,” said Godin.