Fisheries union, harvesters eager to work with new federal minister

The president of the Fish, Food & Allied Workers union says he’s looking forward to working with Canada’s new federal fisheries minister.

Diane Lebouthillier, Liberal MP for the Quebec riding of Gaspésie-Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, was one of several ministers to assume new roles in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet on Wednesday.

She leaves the revenue portfolio to assume the role of minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard from Joyce Murray, who has announced she will not seek re-election.

FFAW president Greg Pretty said he’s eager to meet the new minister.

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“This woman is from the Gaspé Peninsula. She represents harvesters, we got a lot in common,” Pretty said Wednesday. “We’ve already spoke with our counterparts in Quebec and they’re going to line up a meeting with us ASAP with the minister so we can get some of these hot button items back on the table.”

A man wearing a plaid blazer with grey and red glasses stands in an office.
Greg Pretty, president of the Fish, Food & Allied Workers union, says he’s eager to begin working with Lebouthillier. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)
Some of those hot button issues include northern cod, seal overpopulation, and addressing what Pretty, in a press release Wednesday, called a “disconnect” between fishermen and the federal government.

“[DFO] need to start doing their jobs. They need surveys, they need vessels and they need engagement with harvesters — something we haven’t seen in a while,” he said. “We’ll be there at the table to ensure and to help them make this thing right.”

Pretty said he’s not concerned Lebouthillier is unilingual — the new minister predominantly speaks French and rarely does interviews or answers questions in English.

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Some union staff and harvesters are bilingual, he said, and there is one language they share in common.

“The language of fish is what we’re talking about here. She understands that very well.”

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