Hush-hush OCI exemptions threaten rural jobs: McCurdy

NLNDP Leader Earle McCurdy called on the premier to come clean on additional exemptions apparently granted from minimum processing requirements that will allow Ocean Choice International to ship millions of pounds of groundfish for processing in other countries. He says the giveaway is a slap in the face for rural Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who would otherwise be employed in processing plants.

“What species of fish has the premier allowed OCI to ship out unprocessed? How many pounds? Is there an end date for this exemption?” McCurdy asked.

He noted that as shellfish stocks are declining, groundfish (including the yellowtail, redfish, and American plaice OCI has the exemption for) are rebounding.  “What future is there for coastal communities in the province if big companies are allowed to ship jobs overseas?” McCurdy asked.

When OCI was granted a temporary exemption to ship yellowtail flounder out of the province in 2012, Premier Ball – then the Opposition Leader – was critical.

“Now he’s doing exactly what he blasted the previous government for, but he’s doing it on a much bigger scale,” McCurdy said. At the time the 2012 exemptions were approved, OCI promised to create 110 year-round jobs in Fortune. “They’ve done nothing of the sort. Work at Fortune has been very sporadic, and additional exemptions will ensure that continues for the long term.”

The Liberal The Way Forward document promised an action plan for transitioning the industry to groundfish, McCurdy adds. “So far that plan appears to be, ‘last one out, turn off the lights.’”

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