The Senators and Sterling Belliveau (on Fleet Separation and EI)

Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau

Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau

Nova Scotia’s Conservative Senator Stephen Greene wrote to Canada’s Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield calling for an end to fleet separation: “In my view, fleet separation is one of the worst industrial policies in Canadian history.”

Nova Scotia’s NDP Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau is fighting to protect east coast fishermen and their way of life. But Conservatives may be intent on eliminating the fleet separation and owner/operator policies.

Current rules ensure that licences stay in the hands of the local fishermen who do the work. Companies can not buy up licences and hire others to do the fishing for minimum wage.

This has resulted in a profitable fishery all over the Nova Scotian coast, with thousands of fishing entrepreneurs making a good living off lobster and crab.

If the federal government destroys this system, it will lead to foreign control of our inshore fisheries, and the further collapse of small fishing villages across Nova Scotia.

Senator Greene’s opinions on fleet separation are also wrapped up in an attack on EI. He wrote that fleet separation caused “the fostering of generations of dependency on EI benefits” and “the acceptance of massive EI fraud as part and parcel of a way of life.”

Under intense pressure from Sterling Belliveau and the fishing families he represents, the federal government has backed off on eliminating the fleet separation and owner-operator policies. But for how long?

In his last visit to Ottawa, Belliveau also urged a Senate committee, which is conducting a study of the lobster industry in Atlantic Canada, not to impose quotas on the inshore lobster fishery – another wise lobbying effort by the provincial NDP.

Belliveau and Nova Scotia’s newest Conservative senator, Tom McInnis, had a heated debate during the meeting when Belliveau attacked federal changes to employment insurance.

Belliveau said EI changes that require seasonal workers to take jobs outside of their field will cause a worker shortage in the fishing industry. But McInnis said fishermen can return to their jobs during fishing season. Of course, the fishermen won’t return. They will stay out west. Sterling Belliveau and the NDP are right on this issue. The fight must continue.