The Fisherman and the Fundraiser

Lobster fishermen, including hundreds from the communities Michel Samson represents, came together these past 3 weeks to to raise the issue of low lobster prices. NDP and PC MLAs attended the fishermen’s rallies and meetings, but Liberals were nowhere to be seen.

The Liberal Office in Halifax did issue a press release on behalf of Michel Samson. But his absence in Arichat was noticed.

One reader suggested that Michel Samson’s fundraiser and Halifax landlord is the reason he failed to make it to the meetings. Edgar Samson (no relation) is a bulk buyer of lobster – one of Cape Breton’s largest in fact. And many fishermen believe bulk buyers are driving the price down to make more money as middle men. So we can see why a reader might suggest that.

“There’s absolutely no pattern to the lifestyle of an elected official. Some days, you’re going to come up on a Monday, other days you’ll come up on a Tuesday. It all depends on the week. It depends what obligations you have, and each week is different." - Michel Samson

“There’s absolutely no pattern to the lifestyle of an elected official. Some days, you’re going to come up on a Monday, other days you’ll come up on a Tuesday. It all depends on the week. It depends what obligations you have, and each week is different.” – Michel Samson

Our concern is that Michel Samson may be avoiding public appearances until the Auditor General finishes his review of the Liberal MLA’s living expenses. That would be a mistake. Spending the summer in Richmond County would go a long way toward fixing the perception that he only visits on weekends.

Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau spoke to fishermen at the last meeting before the boats hit the water again. He told them of NDP efforts to get Marine Stewardship Council certification for the lobster fishery as a sustainable industry. Belliveau talked to them about the panel being struck to look at the issue and also announced provincial support for an ad campaign to promote Nova Scotia lobster.

Stephen McNeil has been mostly quiet on Michel Samson’s case and that’s disappointing to see – Samson is one of the few capable people McNeil has in his Caucus.

Perhaps if McNeil would defend Samson with the same vigor with which he has defended Manning MacDonald’s multiple vacations while the Legislature sat, Samson would be more inclined to get out and about more often.


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.

1,565 QP Qs by the NSLP and NSPC

Two distinct strategies suggest themselves in a review of the one thousand five-hundred and sixty-five questions asked by the Liberals and Conservatives in 2012.

The Liberals used a spray-paint or roller technique to try to colour the government on broad topics, while the Conservatives used a smaller brush to give detailed work to delicate issues.

Credit must be given to the Conservatives for getting stories like Talbot House (50 questions) and the Home for Coloured Children (21 questions) into the press. Spending a lot of time on a few stories can make a difference. But there is risk in this approach as well. Asking no questions on universities, agriculture, doctors, crime rates, or rural roads, but 22 questions on First Contract Arbitration legislation, suggest this focused attack can result in forgetting other core values.

A word of caution: as the Official Opposition, the Liberals ask approximately 60% of the questions. It would be unfair to suggest that because they asked two questions on Immigration in 2012, and the Conservatives did not ask any, that they care about that issue more than the PCs. With 313 more questions, the Liberals could hit more targets.

For the NDP, it is worth noting that the topics their supporters seem most interested in – universal health care, climate change, income assistance, root causes of crime, and the minimum wage – received no questions from either the Liberals or the Tories.

Digging down into the numbers on health also yields a point of interest. Instead of wait times (9 questions total) and ER closures (15 questions total) dominating the discussion as they did under previous Liberal and PC governments, the number one health issue raised in Question Period in 2012 was the NSGEU and Collective Bargaining (57 questions).

Write to us with your observations at

The Question Period Priorities of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party and Liberal Party.

The Question Period Priorities of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party and Liberal Party.

The Strait Deal

600 mill workers. 400 forestry workers. 2.5 percent of the Nova Scotia economy. An investment that will pay for itself in 12 years.

While the Liberals are on board with the NewPage deal – Michel Samson is the MLA for part of the Strait, after all – Jamie Baillie and the Conservatives are sending mixed messages.

In Halifax, Jamie Baillie has wondered if the government could have invested in other jobs in the region (but has not speculated on what those 1000 jobs might possibly be) while in Cape Breton, Allan MacMaster defended forestry and the mill:

I think a lot of people around the province maybe don’t realize the asset in the machine that’s at the mill. The reason Stern was interested in buying the mill was largely because of the machine. We have the forest. We have the experienced workforce. But the machine is the real drawing card and what makes it different from other mills.

While Halifax voters may not understand the rural economy and the importance of an anchor industry in the Strait, Premier Dexter understands that the province needs to fight for jobs. A leader make decisions, not because they are popular in the capital, but because they are the right thing for families in Cape Breton and the economy of Nova Scotia.