Liberal critic for Agriculture, Aquaculture and fisheries Isabelle Thériault is calling on Minister Wetmore to be a stronger voice at the cabinet table in favour of provincial food producers.
“Every week we are hearing of another sector at risk due to the Covid-19 pandemic, yet government has done nothing to support them. Premier Higgs cannot continue to rely on the Federal government to support our industries,” said Thériault, MLA for Caraquet. “If this government is serious about increasing the supply chain for local food, then they need to step up and put specific programs in place to help those sectors, like other provinces are already doing.”
Various well-established sectors such as beef and dairy, berries, fruits and vegetables, as well as fish and seafood are asking government for support in order to survive the pandemic.
“Our farmers are saying they will only be able to produce about 30% of their usual crop, our fishing industry workers are worried about the impacts of a shortened season, the cattle producers are saying some of their operations may close and 17 poultry installations were just temporarily shut down in Haut-Madawaska!” said Thériault. “The situation is urgent; the minister needs to address the concerns of our food sectors before some are forced to close their operations for good.”
Industries with very particular seasons, such as the fishing industry, are facing significant challenges. Fishermen and plant workers are under a lot of stress and fear they will have a shortfall in earnings to qualify for employment insurance.
“The minister should be in a position to assure plant workers and fishermen that the government will be there to help them in these difficult times,” said Thériault. “Too often the government waits for a crisis situation before taking action and makes last-minute decisions that are not well thought out. I trust that the minister will take the time to consult with the industry as soon as possible and offer some reassurance to these sectors.”
In a document intitle Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and fisheries response to covid-19 funding programs for the agri-food sector, the government points to programs that predate the pandemic. There appears to be no new funding created and the maximum contribution offered by the government on the existing programs was not increased.
“We know this has been a hard year for the bottom line, but we need to keep our industries alive so that New Brunswick can rebuild our economy and have greater food independence once this is done,” Said Thériault. “The Minister Wetmore needs to come to the table and seriously consult with our industries to establish what their needs are and how we can help them not only survive but continue to grow.”