The B.C. NDP is sending strong signals fisheries management and habitat conservation will play a bigger role in government decisions.
Fishing groups and conservation advocates pushing for a new, dedicated provincial ministry to fisheries to tackle a myriad of issues, notably the worst salmon returns on record, expressed some disappointment when Premier John Horgan unveiled his new cabinet last week without the announcement of a new ministry, but not without praising the government for some positive steps forward.
Chief among them is the newly named ministry of agriculture, food and fisheries (formally just agriculture), a symbolic but important action that comes with the creation of a parliamentary secretary for fisheries and aquaculture, Fin Donnelly. The former federal Member of Parliament has a track record for introducing bills and forming non-partisan alliances aimed at protecting ocean health.
“He’s a very capable person for the new role in B.C.,” Aaron Hill, executive director of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society said. “The important thing is the ministry be given the latitude and resources they need to do their job. Wild salmon management in this province has been hampered for a long time because of the siloing between ministries. The creation of a new ministry probably wouldn’t solve that, but a parliamentary secretary role could be great, as long as Donnelly makes a point of breaking through.”
That is especially crucial for fulfilling the mandate of working closely with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources on new mandates to step up protection of fish habitat through a new biodiversity strategy and the creation of a a Watershed Security Strategy.
Donnelly also has a mandate to support the new Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resources, Nathan Cullen, to develop a new provincial coastal strategy that better protects marine habitat while growing coastal economies.
Lastly, the ministry has also been asked to maintain its work with the federal government to develop new strategies to revitalize B.C.’s wild salmon populations, but also push to double the five-year, $143-million Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, split 30 per cent and 70 per cent by the provincial and federal governments respectively.