Through no planning on our part we are in a federal election. What it gives the recreational anglers of the Comox Valley, North Island, Coastal B.C. and throughout western Canada is an opportunity to express our dissatisfaction at the ballot box with the undemocratic and questionable allocation of Canada’s share of the halibut allocation to recreational anglers from the International Pacific Halibut Commission.
The split is 12 per cent to tens of thousands of recreational anglers and 88 per cent of the total allowable catch to a small group of commercial licence holders. Halibut are a common property resource that belongs to the people of Canada and this gross misallocation of the resource is not in keeping with Canada’s stated position on the sharing of common property resources of the oceans of the planet.
Indeed we have currently assigned the Royal Canadian Air Force a vital role – to assist the people of Libya to an equitable share of their country’s petroleum resources, which have been controlled by a dictator for personal gain for over 40 years.
Canada is blessed with a free democratic system where we do not rely on physical force to express our views on unfair actions by government. I can write this column critical of our current member of parliament without fear of repercussions.
But there is a big, growing problem in our Canadian democracy – the trend of politicians to lie to the public.
In the April 18, 2011 issue of Maclean’s magazine there is an article on “National Issues – Time for a Truth in Politics Act” by Andrew Coyne where he makes some astute observations. He quotes several occasions when prime ministers have lied to the people and got away with it. He further states cases of provincial politics where premiers have not told the truth to the public – “examples abound from coast to coast.” In British Columbia we need look no further than the sad case of Gordon Campbell and the HST fiasco, which is still an ongoing saga.
In the meantime, this column is about the misplaced application of sharing halibut allocation with the recreational fishery. If you have followed the news lately you may recall reports about the suggestions of managing the Pacific Fleet of the Royal Canadian Navy from Eastern Canada. The prime minister quickly jumped on the suggestion and assured everybody that such was not the case.
Yet we manage our West Coast fisheries from eastern Canada on a model that was developed to manage that fishery, but in truth has little relevance in managing our West Coast marine fisheries.
The East Coast marine fishery is primarily a commercial fishery with very little recreational fishing; the West Coast marine fishery has a recreational component that produces more economic returns to Canada than our commercial fishery.
Recreational halibut fishing is an important contributor to our tourism and recreational fishing economic returns to British Columbia’s coastal communities. It is an important contributor to the economic well-being of small coastal communities from Prince Rupert to Victoria. This applies in particular to places such as Ucluelet, Tofino, Gold River, Tahsis, Winter Harbour, Coal Harbour, Port Alice, Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Sayward, Campbell River, Courtenay, Comox, and Cumberland. Most of these communities are in our federal riding and the incumbent politician, John Duncan was aware of the problem.
The photograph with this column is of five candidates participating in the all-candidates’ forum held in Cumberland on April 18. The forum was chaired by Marty Douglas and sponsored by the Cumberland Chamber of Commerce – a tip of the hat for a job well done.
Questions for the candidates were submitted in writing prior to the meeting. The halibut issue received more questions than any other. All five candidates addressed the issue from their personal and their party’s perspectives. I see these candidates in the two forums I have attended as decent, honest people. But the fact remains politicians have lied to us in the recent past.
Andrew Coyne’s solution is a “Truth in Politics Act.” Be that as it may, I respectfully suggest the allocation system for halibut is broken, and if this is indeed the case I believe we should fix it with a more equitable system of sharing the common property resources of the sea with the people who own them.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.