MP visits every community

  • Jul. 27, 2011 10:00 a.m.

The salmon fishery, Canada Post, and BC Ferries were the top concerns of islanders that MP Nathan Cullen met with during his recent visit to Haida Gwaii. Mr. Cullen visited every community during the four-day visit, and said he really enjoyed being here during the Skidegate Days celebration. Listening to islanders, he said, he learned that Haida Gwaii continues to face a difficult economic situation, a situation that was made worse by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ decision to abruptly close the commercial troll chinook fishery in late June. The fishery was closed over concerns that commercial fishermen were catching too many salmon from the weak West Coast Vancouver Island run. “I learned from people who have fished for a long time it was a healthy run,” Mr. Cullen said. “I learned how little knowledge the department has and how it handicaps them.” Mr. Cullen said it looks like the problem is that DFO doesn’t have enough information about the fish stocks to make good decisions, and he predicted that the problem is only going to get worse due to federal government cutbacks. “They cut somewhere around $57-million from this year’s (DFO) budget, with more coming,” he said. “You can’t manage if you don’t measure… It’s a big problem.” Mr. Cullen said he heard huge concerns about BC Ferries fares everywhere he went on the islands, even though the ferry service is a provincial responsibility and not a federal one. “People are so offended that BC Ferries is paying their CEO so much money while raising prices,” he said. “People should not be paying such a painful amount to access our national highway… It’s unfair and it’s bad government.” Mr. Cullen said BC Ferries receives an annual amount from the federal government, and he will be doing some research to see how that particular chunk of money gets spent. Slow Canada Post service to and from the islands has been an issue for a couple of years and islanders are still unhappy about it, Mr. Cullen said. It’s costing people money because they can’t pay their bills on time, and there’s no reason why Canada Post can’t do better, he said. Mr. Cullen said folks in Queen Charlotte have come up with the idea of putting together a business plan to be presented to the mail carrier, outlining exactly how much mail arrives and leaves and attaching a quote from an airline to carry it. Other communities that Mr. Cullen spoke with were in favour of joining this effort. “This could win Canada Post some friends,” he said, something the corporation needs after its recent labour troubles. “We’re not asking for anything ridiculous.” The mail service seems to be doing okay in the summer, when there are six ferry runs a week, but an air carrier is desperately needed in the winter, when the ferry can be delayed for up to a week at a time, he added. Mr. Cullen said he also heard that many islanders are “holding their breath” to see what happens with the forest industry here and the land use plan; and that there are some exciting developments coming forward on the energy front that could see electricity generated by biofuel instead of diesel. Meanwhile, Mr. Cullen is helping to organize a trip to Haida Gwaii for a group of 12 to 15 MPs from across the country that could take place as early as this fall. Haida Gwaii is an important and unique part of Canada, he said, and people can learn so much through a visit here. “It will give you a better sense of the country, if you come from downtown Toronto,” he said. “I think Haida Gwaii has got something particular, it really makes me appreciate what Canada is all about… plus, we have to bring some of those Atlantic MPs out and how them what real fishing is.”

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