Federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan told North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney that Ottawa is still working on a transition “plan,” for Vancouver Island a month after the Dec. 17 decision to phase out 19 Discovery Island farms by 2022.
In a conversation with Jordan on Monday, the NDP whip told the minister that it was “unacceptable” to have announced the decision without any plan to support affected workers.
“The minister acknowledged that there was still a lot of work to be done with the industry and was hoping to hear from them directly on the impact and plans going forward, she said at this point, she’s still waiting for information and I’m sure the industry is working diligently on getting that to her,” said Blaney.
She also told the minister that moving forward, “multiple departments of the federal government” will have to provide support for this solution.
Along with considering a whole government approach, the minister has also committed to providing resources for the community but has not specified any amount yet, said Blaney.
To accelerate the process, suggestions were made to the minister to tap into the newly announced Regional Development Agency of BC as a possible driver for the economic transition.
“A regional approach is better suited than Ottawa telling us what to do,” said Blaney.
“I also talked to her about the reality that we need more initiatives and investments in this riding around supporting wild salmon and habitat restoration. And those are decent jobs that could really make a difference and also really see an improvement in our wild salmon stocks,” said Blaney.
Following the conversation, Blaney and North Island MLA Michele Babchuk sent a letter to minister Jordan asking the federal government to be part of an urgent regional economic development summit for northern Vancouver Island communities.
In the letter, Babchuk and Blaney told the minister that hosting an economic summit for the North Island to discuss and formulate the required steps for assistance and ongoing development will be vital for the transition plan that the federal government stated to support.
Keeping in line with their suggestion for a cross-government approach, the pair also extended the invitation to federal ministers of environment Jonathan Wilkinson and rural economic development Maryam Monsef to participate in the proposed economic summit.
In December, after the federal government announced the decision to phase out 19 Discovery Island fish farms after consultation with seven First Nations from the area, the aquaculture industry estimated a direct loss of over 1,500 jobs on northern Vancouver Island.
The federal government stated its commitment to supporting the transition process but is yet to provide further details about the plan.
The Mirror has reached out to Jordan’s office for a comment.