Poisoned chalice? Impossible role awaits new Canadian fisheries minister

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“I strongly believe the next fisheries minister should be somebody from central Canada who is not surrounded by fishermen and fisherwomen.”

Ottawa has a problem. Following the defeat of fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan, Justin Trudeau will be forced to make a new appointment. But who would want it?

In her short tenure, Jordan managed to anger fishing and fish farming interests on both the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards while presiding over violent clashes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishermen. Her decisions also split First Nation groups, some of whom oppose fish farming altogether while others are disappointed that arrangements they have come to with the farming companies may now have to be scrapped.

With the sheer number of competing and vocal interests in the industry, the position could be regarded as the poisoned chalice of Canadian politics.

“I think they kind of threw Jordan to the wolves by even giving her that spot,” said Sipekne’katik band Chief Mike Sack.

Sack told Global News the new fisheries minister to replace Bernadette Jordan should be from outside Atlantic Canada to avoid any partiality and to protect their political careers.

“I strongly believe the next fisheries minister should be somebody from central Canada who is not surrounded by fishermen and fisherwomen,” said Sack. “I think that’s a better way to have an unbiased decision and you are also not going to jeopardize somebody’s career by it.”

Controversy
While Conservationists might have cheered when Jordan announced in December her decision to demand the closure of a number of salmon farms in British Columbia by June next year, the decision was met with widespread anger from people faced with losing their jobs.

Jordan was accused of favouring anti-fish farming groups at the expense of people whose livelihoods depend on the industry.

Her stance meant that some companies such as Cermaq and Mowi faced the prospect of a premature cull. A February report prepared by consultant Rias Inc. for the association said closing the farms would lead to the loss of more than $390 million in annual economic output in the province and could put up to 1,500 jobs at risk.

Legacy
Reflecting on her defeat, Jordan told the The Chronicle Herald: “Fisheries is always tough because you are the regulator and oftentimes you have to make decisions people don’t like.”

“That goes for everyone. Would I do something differently? That’s like how long’s a piece of string. It’s a very tough situation and I wish the next fisheries minister the best of luck.”