July 11, 2023
Andrew Furey, Premier
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
P.O. Box 8700
St. John’s NL
I am writing with concern for the approximately 10,000 fish harvesters and 3,000 fish plant workers who are under threat of losing their livelihoods due to the market collapse of the snow crab industry this year. I ask that you urge the Prime Minister to direct the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Minister of Finance to work collaboratively to implement key measures - particularly ensuring EI access and delaying CEBA repayments until December 2024 - to protect the owner-operator fishery in our province and help prevent a workforce shortage in 2024 and beyond.
The NL NDP supports the FFAW’s economic assistance proposal to aid fishery workers and harvesters. We call on you as Premier to champion these solutions and strongly consider united support from the provincial and federal governments to help the industry meet the challenges it is facing as a result of global pressures beyond its control and forecasting.
Your advocacy and the federal government’s support for the proposal is essential.
In order to have a strong economic recovery from the current setback in the snow crab fishery, the federal government must establish a plan to help these small fishery businesses reduce their debt burdens as well as protect workers and their families by providing access to unemployment insurance. Not acknowledging this crisis and failing to provide relief measures will directly lead to hundreds of small businesses not being in a financial position to return to the water in 2024. As a result, we fear there would be a mass exit of workers from the industry and rural communities as they attempt to secure alternative income and avoid becoming dependent on social assistance programs.
For most resource-dependent communities in our province, more than one income earner in the household relies on the fishery. If neither meet the threshold requirements for EI, this will create widespread panic as access to food, prescriptions, and other necessities become impossible. This proposal presents a clear way forward to avoid tragedy.
The Fishery Worker Economic Hardship Grant, The Fish Harvester Economic Hardship Grant, the New Entrants Economic Hardship Benefit, and the deferral of the CEBA interest payments are sensible solutions called for by the FFAW, and are crucial for the economic sustainability of our province and the welfare of our coastal communities. These programs will help stabilize the fishing industry and keep it self-sustaining. This is necessary if the industry is to continue to engage and attract younger workers and allow those with a long-term attachment to remain in business.
The fishery can sustain a strong and vibrant rural Newfoundland and Labrador. This economic support proposal will help secure our communities. We need a clear commitment to the provincial fishery and to rural Newfoundland and Labrador. As Premier, we hope you will lobby your federal counterparts to put these solutions in place and explore opportunities for bridged support across both levels of government. I look forward to a positive response.
James Dinn, MHA
St. John’s Centre
Leader, NL NDP