By Belle Hatfield
The Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association finds itself in the middle of an election campaign spat after issuing a media release early Monday morning, Sept. 9, questioning a recent $500,000 loan to a Queens County seafood processing company.
Nova Scotia Fish Packers executive director Marc Surette. BELLE HATFIELD PHOTO
The loan to Blue Wave Seafoods of Port Mouton was announced by the province during the last week in August. It is designed to help the fish plant restructure.
The money comes out of the Nova Scotia Jobs Fund, which pursues investment opportunities for communities in transition, industry sectors, regional support, small business programs, infrastructure and large industrial ventures. According to government documents, Blue Wave employs 70 people.
“Has something changed?” That’s what the association’s executive director Marc Surette wants to know. In the media release, he refers to a state-of-the-sector report issued by the government in 2007. That report said over-capacity in the fish-processing sector was a serious threat. Among the report’s recommendations was that the province should “provide no financial assistance for troubled plants.”
It is the association’s position that this injection of cash into one troubled fish plant creates an uneven playing field in the industry during challenging times, when, Surette said, all companies have made sacrifices.
It didn’t take the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture long to respond.
“It’s ironic over the last four years the government has supported over and over again members of the Fish Packers Association with funding, including the association president’s company Sable Fish Packers. But when the NDP protects 70 jobs in Port Mouton they are suddenly against it,” said Sterling Belliveau in an early afternoon media release.
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Belliveau announced in August that he was opting to run in the upcoming provincial election in the new riding of Queens-Shelburne, in which Blue Wave operates. The former warden for the Municipality of Barrington represents the constituency of Shelburne, but the electoral boundaries reform approved last year by the government has split the riding in half. The western half of Shelburne County is now amalgamated with Argyle to form the riding of Argyle-Barrington.
Surette acknowledges that some of the businesses his organization represents have at one time or another received provincial loans or other incentives.
“There are programs at both the provincial and federal levels to encourage and assist with innovation, modernization, marketing, and skills development. Good businesses with good ideas should be getting that support,” said Surette.
The association has repeatedly asked success governments to act on the recommendations of the sector report, which was released when the Progressive Conservatives were in power.
Surette said in the media release that this announcement isn’t about creating new jobs or encouraging new thoughts, it’s about maintaining the status quo.
“Many companies are forced to deal with tough times, but they have done it on their own,” he said.
The association is calling for a transparent policy, with access for the industry as a whole.