Peter Fenwick, former AIMS Director of Communications, has revised this commentary piece, originally published in August 2001. In it he argues that Newfoundland needs to replace its “stamp up” fishery - a fishery designed to provide enough work to secure EI for the workers - with a fishery that is sustainable and productive. In order to achieve that one hundred fish plants will have to close. More to the point, these plants must close at the earliest possible moment in order to give rural Newfoundlanders a chance to rebuild. To allow the closures to happen gradually as plant workers retire (apparently the current strategy of the Newfoundland government) will simply mean that new endeavours will not have the workforce necessary for development - denying rural Newfoundland the more promising future such new endeavours could provide.
In the glow of victory in the offshore boundary line dispute with Nova Scotia, few people are asking what exactly has Newfoundland won. In this commentary, AIMS’ voice on Newfoundland and Labrador, Peter Fenwick, points out that oil has not been the fiscal saviour that was promised to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Population decline has continued unabated, and the government’s bottom line sinks deeper into red ink with every passing year. This commentary provides a more complete perspective on the failed promise of oil wealth for Newfoundland and Labrador and offers a glimpse at how to reverse this situation.
Newfoundland and Labrador, like all Canadian provinces, is in danger of hitting the health care wall, the point where insatiable demands of the health care system smack into the limited resources of the province. On March 22, in its latest budget, the province hit the wall, but through some rapid juggling of numbers it claims to have balanced its budget. This is the first in a new series of articles that Peter Fenwick will be contributing about public affairs and public policy in Newfoundland.
AIMS’ voice on the Newfoundland scene, takes aim in this piece at the anti-business stance of the Newfoundland and Labrador government in its dealings with Fisheries Products International. The company has developed plans to invest millions in new technology to create a high quality, highly professional fishery with plants that operate year-round. All agree that a modernized fishery is in the best interests of Newfoundland; the problem arises because a modern fishery requires a smaller workforce and work is already scarce in Newfoundland. Moving to protect current constituents from harm, the government is acting in a manner that, Fenwick argues, amounts to “nationalization without compensation” and will threaten, not protect, the very jobs the government is trying to preserve.
After FPI announced it was putting tens of millions of dollars into modernizing three south coast plants and would have to lay off almost half the work force, politicians responded with hearings on the FPI Act. The public anger at the hearings was real, and the language abusive. In this commentary, Peter Fenwick, AIMS’ voice on Newfoundland and Labrador issues, says that now that FPI has been hobbled by the Newfoundland legislature, the future of the south coast is even more problematic. If the haemorrhaging of population from the south coast reported in the latest Census is to be staunched, it will only be by companies like FPI. Modernization has to go forward if any fish processing jobs are to be saved, but how FPI will finance it under the new rules remains to be seen.
A widely used mineral index shows that most natural resource prices have fallen by 50% since 1950. Yet, in Newfoundland, the idea that natural resources increase in value the longer one waits has been used to justify policies that drove away investors, created regulatory bottlenecks and prolonged jurisdictional disputes. The results, according to Peter Fenwick, AIMS' voice on Newfoundland and Labrador and former Director of Communications at the Institute, is severe damage to the offshore oil sector, delays in the development of the Voisey’s Bay nickel project and a succession of governments that have let Churchill River power flow to the ocean without producing any wealth. In this piece, Fenwick considers whether the recent collapse of a significant portion of Newfoundland’s offshore oil industry will inject some semblance of reality into the collective consciousness, and lead to policies that promote wealth generation now before the resources decline another 50% in value.
Ottawa Citizen writer Bruce Ward recently described the final episode of the Random Passage series as “The struggle of Irish immigrants in Newfoundland before the invention of government handouts.” Needless to say, this comment elicited a storm of negative responses from Newfoundlanders. In this reply piece, again in the Ottawa Citizen, Peter Fenwick, AIMS' regular contributor from Newfoundland and Labrador and former Director of Communications at the Institute, takes the Newfoundland government to task for perpetuating the negative stereotype that Ward was repeating. Fenwick argues that Newfoundlanders are struggling to reduce their dependence but their provincial government undoes much of their hard work in the eyes of the rest of the country with make-work projects and other policies little suited to a modern economy. Publication: OC, February 8, 2002