Follow the Money | JIM FURLONG

This thought makes everyone I know angry. It is as if we, in this province, are somehow linked economically to the impractical.

As long as I have been following news, and that is a long time, we have been attracted to a romantic view of how things can work here. That is manifested, although it is changing, in the notion that every outport and hamlet we ever had can be kept open and that somehow the small boat fishery, as it used to be called, can come back and we can have flakes and barking kettles again. Let me tell you, we can’t.

The latest incarnation of our head space comes in a couple of forms. One is the decision to process farmed salmon at Quinlan Brothers Ltd. in Bay de Verde. The salmon is from a St. Lawrence plant owned by Grieg Seafoods, and it is true the FFAW thought and wished the work would go to that unionized plant on the Burin Peninsula. Well, it did not. It went to the non-union Quinlan Brothers plant. Why? Take a guess and if you say it is a “money” issue you would be close. I tell my friends that if they want loyalty and love then go out to the dog pound and get yourself a nice puppy. Do not expect qualities like that from business. They are there on occasion but, God Almighty, it is rare. Business is business.

Here is a thought that will get everyone upset. What do people expect from the marketplace? Loyalty? It is not like that. Our fishery in any of its aspects does not work like that. We may have thought that it did, or wished that it were so, but we were wrong. For political considerations we built cod fish plants in every little harbour in Newfoundland and Labrador. I have, in the past, used The Southern Shore as an example. There were fish plants in St. John’s, Petty Harbour, Bay Bulls, Witless Bay (I worked in that one) , Tors Cove , Cape Broyle and on up the shore through Ferryland and beyond. It made no economic sense but the government did not care. It was all about politics and putting plants everywhere kept them in power. Forget the fact it was a waste of money.

Now the other thing that got me on the go this week is the racket over the price of crab. That price was sky high last year and now it is at an all-time low. The reason is simple enough. It is the market. People, particularly in the United States, are not eating crab like they used to. It is partly COVID and partly economics, but the market is not what it used to be. You can call on government to step in or shake your fist at the evil fish companies but it is all about one thing – the market price of crab. In a way it is so simple. I can declare the price of crab to be $10 a pound but if nobody is willing to pay then that is not the price. The price is something less than that. It is not about good and evil. It is about the price that people will pay for a product.

Can government’s, provincial or federal, make people eat crab so the price will go up? That answer is simple, and you know what that answer is. They cannot do it any more than we can make people wear seal skin coats again.