Federal fisheries minister on P.E.I. seeing challenges, opportunities

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 14, 2016

Premier Wade MacLauchlan looks on as federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo addresses the media during a visit to P.E.I. Thursday. He says his mandate is "to work with the provinces, territories, indigenous peoples and other stakeholders to better safeguard our three oceans.''

©THE GUARDIAN/Heather Taweel

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo touring Atlantic Canada to get information, not hand out cash

The P.E.I. fishing industry did not net any funding during the new federal fishery minister's first official visit to the province Thursday.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo was here Thursday to gather information, not hand out cash.

"I haven't made any decisions one way or the other,'' he said on just how much federal assistance will be injected into the fishing industry here.

"The goal of this trip for me is to get out here and meet all the stakeholders, the governments and everybody to find out what their issues and what their concerns are so I can take that information back with me.''

SNAPSHOT of Hunter Tootoo

Tootoo's introductory tour of Atlantic Canada as the country's fishery minister brought him to the island Thursday where he met with several representatives from the province's commercial fishing industry, including the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association, seafood processors as well as representatives of the P.E.I. Aquaculture Association.

<< Fast fact The economic impact of the fishery and aquaculture industry to P.E.I. is close to $400 million and represents roughly one-quarter of the province's exports.>>

He also met with Premier Wade MacLauchlan and P.E.I. Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Alan McIsaac.

Totoo said he is eager to build on his discussions of a "number of important topics'' at the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture ministers meeting next week in Montreal.

"I think it's important that I hear first hand about the opportunities and challenges that will help us move forward together to achieve everyone's common goal,'' he said, speaking at a news conference in a provincial government building in Charlottetown.

"As an Inuit, I know how vital fishing is to families, small coastal communities and the entire island of Prince Edward Island to its economy and its way of life.''

McIsaac said he wanted to impress on Tootoo the need to shore up the shortfall in fish processing workers in P.E.I.

"The need to have workers for our plants, that's the big thing right now, and the changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is of great concern to us,'' said McIsaac.

"We have a lot of fish that we need to process.''

MacLauchlan noted the province is working closely with the industry to address the workforce shortage to help ensure getting "those products to market in a timely and time sensitive way.''

The premier was receptive to Tootoo's call to build an economically prosperous fishing industry while protecting the health of marine and freshwater resources for future generations.

MacLauchlan said the province looks forward to working closely with the minister on the environment, climate change and adaptation.

"We on Prince Edward Island are very committed to working on that with you and looking for ways that we can be creative and collaborative here in Prince Edward Island so that Canada can be a world leader in addressing those critical issues,'' he told Tootoo.

Snapshot

Here is a quick look at Hunter Tootoo, the new federal minister of fisheries and oceans:

- Co-founder of the Iqaluit branch of Arctic Insurance Brokers Ltd.

- Elected in 1999 as MLA for Iqaluit Centre. Served this Nunavik riding for 14 years.

- Held cabinet posts including minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corporation, Homelessness, the Qulliq Energy Corporation and Education.

- Elected Nunavut MP in the October federal election, defeating Conservative incumbent Leona Aglukkaq.

- A competitive curler, Tootoo also enjoys hunting and watching hockey.