"What's the hold up?"

MLAs want to know what MacKinley has done to help P.E.I.'s struggling lobster industry.

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 13, 2014
Ron MacKinley is minister of fisheries in Prince Edward Island.

Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley will soon have to explain to both Liberal and Tory MLAs what he has done to help the Island’s struggling lobster industry.

The provincial Standing Committee on Fisheries and Rural Development met this morning in Charlottetown to decide their work plan for the coming months.

Several MLAs brought up the ongoing crisis in the lobster industry and suggested ideas the committee could investigate that could help the fishery.

Government backbench MLA Buck Watts cited his frustration over the fact two reports have long been completed that include a number of recommendations on how to help the industry, yet none of these recommendations have yet been implemented.

“The ideas are there, there’s a lot of good ideas, but it takes too long to follow up to implement the ideas,” Watts said.

He pointed specifically to a one-cent per pound levy for lobster marketing, which both industry reports recommended.

“They should be collecting that this year, but they’re not,” Watts said.

“What’s the hold up? Jeez, why aren’t they collecting it? Because every year you lose, you’re a year further behind.”

He suggested MacKinley be once again called to appear before the committee to provide an update on the implementation of the two reports' recommendations.

His colleagues from both sides of the House, agreed.

The fisheries minister was called to the same committee in February to provide a similar update at that time on how he has helped address lobster fishery concerns.

MacKinley has repeatedly stated he is in favour of initiatives such as a lobster levy and better pricing mechanisms, but that industry must lead changes to the fishery, not government.

Nonetheless, the fisheries committee wants to find out what MacKinley has done to move things along.

“There were some great suggestions that came out those reports but what has been done?” said Opposition Leader Steven Myers.

“I’m sure there has been stuff done, but the problem is that we don’t necessarily know, the industry doesn’t necessarily know. How do we get answers?”

Deputy house speaker Paula Biggar agreed.

“I don’t think there’s any reason we shouldn’t expect to have an update on that,” she said.

The committee also plans to call the executive director of the Seafood Processor’s Association, Dennis King, as well as Innovation Minister Allen Roach to explore the issue of a shortage of workers at local lobster processing plants.