May 12th, 2020
Letter to Minister Jordan Calling for More Support to Independent Fishers and Harvesters
I write to you today to reiterate a number of concerns from workers in the fish and seafood sector and urge you to take immediate action to support them. The government has made initial investments in protections for processors but there is still no specific support for independent fish harvesters.
Before COVID-19, fishers and seafood workers were already having a hard time. The past several years have been difficult with numerous species being threatened by natural disasters, climate change, and a failure to protect and restore habitats. Due to the seasonality of the fishing industry, losing access to particular stocks of fish or seafood over the coming weeks and months could prove disastrous for the financial survival of many independent and commercial fishers.
Despite the recently announced protections for workers, there has not been any support for fish harvesters. To support fish harvesters, your government could:
- Extend Employment Insurance (EI) benefits for a 12-month period for all fisheries workers, independent harvesters, crews and plant workers. Include all salmon workers who qualified for E.I. based on the 2018 fishing season.
- Adapt the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) programs to the fisheries sector with qualifying periods between May 9 to August 1, 2020.
- Waive or reimburse all 2020 federal fees related to the commercial fishery including, licensing fees, vessel registration fees, IQ fees, and wharf fees
- Introduce a program similar to the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) for fish harvesters where the maximum loan amount would be significantly increased from the current $40,000 maximum and with the deadline for the forgivable 25% portion of the loan extended by two years to December 31, 2024.
- Review other program elements of the COVID-19 Canada Emergency Response Plan such as the Farm Credit Canada and Business Credit Availability Programs and, where necessary, modify these programs to meet the unique challenges facing independent harvesters.
- Defer payments and freeze interest on existing bank and provincial loan board loans related to fishing activity for a minimum of 12 months.
- Create and implement a Canada Food Purchase Program that includes seafood protein.
Your government has an opportunity to make the critical investments to stimulate a lagging economy, and also lift up the workers who make the fisheries and seafood sector operate.
I appreciate your consideration and thank you for keeping in regular contact with my office. I look forward to your response.
Gord Johns, Member of Parliament for Courtenay-Alberni