North Island-Powell River MP, Rachel Blaney, is calling for a concrete transition plan for fish farm workers in her constituency.
Blaney met virtually with federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan on Monday.
This comes after the federal government announced plans to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands over the next year-and-a-half.
Blaney says the more than half-hour long meeting went well and stressed that while she respects the decision, she wants to make sure the workers will be taken care of, once these farms become a thing of the past.
“What we want to see in this area is some resources to look at opportunities that we have, and of course I also asked her to make sure there was a focus on habitat restoration for wild salmon,” Blaney said.
Blaney says the decision of shutting down the salmon farms has sparked fears and uncertainty about the economic prospects of many communities in the region.
She added that there are ongoing discussions at the federal level about more sustainable aquaculture.
“So there are two things happening simultaneously, but separate” Blaney said.
Blaney says the North Island is already reeling from back-to-back blows of an eight-month forestry strike, directly followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which took direct aim at the key tourism sector.
With that in mind, Blaney says she asked Jordan for a couple of things: “First of all, a commitment that there would be resources given to the area to start making decisions about how to move forward, and the second one that I focused on was making sure that we could bring together stakeholder groups from across the riding to have discussions about what ideas are out there so we could see our economy, here, diversify and grow.”
She is also advocating for better connectivity and self-service: “We want to make sure we are a region that is open for opportunity and those are some infrastructure parts that we desperately need moving forward.”
After the meeting, Blaney and North Island MLA Michele Babchuk wrote to Jordan, calling for federal participation in an urgent regional economic development summit for North Island communities.
“We want to make sure the federal government hears very clearly what opportunities are out there for us so that we can see… investment and that’s what I’ve asked the minister to do,” Blaney said.
Blaney says phasing out the farms was a nation-to-nation consultation that she was not a part of, and that a decision has been made which respects Aboriginal rights and title, and now we have to figure out the next steps.
“We need to make sure that we have (the) supports (in place) so that we can diversify our economy, that we can look at the opportunities that are there and see the federal government stand up,” Blaney said.
“They made the decision, I respect the decision, what I’m asking the federal government to do is support our communities in a meaningful way, and really makes sure to take note of the unique situation that we’re in, and the uniqueness of the multiple communities that are going to be impacted.”