MLA Coons makes first statement in legislature

  • Sep. 26, 2005 2:00 p.m.

Rooky MLA Gary Coons made his first statement in the legislature last week, taking two minutes to plead for help for fishers. Here, word for word, is what he said;

Our Pacific Coast of Canada is truly unique. Here, over 29,000 kilometres of coastline are bordered by an ocean with a vital link to one of our most precious resources. Wild Salmon..
In my home town of Prince Rupert, the great abundance of fish, at one time, greater probably than anywhere else in the world, enabled Rupert to be the finest fishing port on the Pacific Coast, if not in the world.
BUT now, as we all realize, Mr Speaker, commercial fishers who rely on the lucrative sockeye salmon runs from the Skeena River, and the Fraser River, are reeling from unprecedented management actions in their fishery. These moves have created a growing sense of despair, not only about the future of the industry, but about the crisis that looms, as these men and women struggle to support their families, with the threat of bankruptcies and apprehended boats looming just around the corner!!
The long tradition of providing for your families, with the abundant supply of fresh salmon has all but been lost to distant memories for this season.
Mr. Speaker, it is time to throw our total support behind the plea for immediate Federal compensation by these hardworking and courageous workers.
Mr. Speaker, employment insurance qualification standards mean many of our constituents, throughout coastal communities and province-wide, will not be able to collect EI this year because they have not made at least $5000. This seems ludicrous to me, Mr. Speaker, as this system penalizes individuals who are already suffering due to poor runs, or for whatever other reason.
I have many friends and colleagues involved in the fishing industry. They desperately need help in this time of need.
Federal assistance has been available for farmers on the prairies in time of droughtÂ…Why not the same for British Columbians?
Federal Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan has indicated that, although the Government has not compensated commercial fishers for missed fishing opportunities in the past, he would discuss it with his colleagues.
I hope that this assembly soon takes a stance to support the call by the United Fisherman and Allied Workers Union, and others, for moorage and insurance costs to be paid by EI, as well as full EI benefits for all fishers and deckhands who tried to fish this year, REGARDLESS of whether they attain the qualification levels for compensation.
Why do we need to do this? Because it’s the right thing to do!!!