As an election year begins, Avalon MP Ken McDonald finds himself immersed in fisheries and infrastructure files
By Sam Westcott | The Shoreline
While many are drawing up their New Year’s resolutions, Avalon Liberal MP Ken McDonald is steering his attention toward a year that will bring an opportunity for re-election. But until that can happen, McDonald is set on straightening out some tangles in vessel policies between the DFO, Newfoundland fisherman, and neighbouring provinces.
McDonald is the current chairman of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. He says that when it comes to certain vessel policies, Newfoundland fisherman are not being treated the same as fisherman from other Atlantic Provinces, even though they often share the same waters.
“Say for example I’m a fisherman,” McDonald says. “I have a boat that breaks down and I want to lease another fisherman’s boat for the purpose of catching my quota. In order to do that in Newfoundland, that boat must be leased for a full 12 months, whereas in Nova Scotia you can do it for a month. For me, I don’t understand why it has to be so different in the same region.”
While McDonald believes change is necessary for Newfoundland fisherman to receive the same treatment from the DFO as fishermen in Nova Scotia, he says at the very least he would like to spur conversation between the government and people involved in the industry.
When asked about the highlights of the past year, McDonald is quick to point to the money being allocated to infrastructure in the province. The funding is something that McDonald says marks a significant change from when the Liberals took office in 2015.
“I was surprised to learn (in 2015) that there was almost $349 million dollars in infrastructure money allocated to Newfoundland by the Federal government, but not one dollar had been applied for,” McDonald says.
McDonald points to the recent signing of a bilateral agreement between the federal and provincial governments. The deal sees the federal government match the money the province can raise for its own infrastructure. The federal government will provide $555 million dollars over the next 10 years. Combined with the province’s own money, that means more than a billion dollars will be spent on infrastructure over the next decade.
McDonald believes the money is much-needed within his own Avalon riding. “The first project that comes to mind is the (sewerage) treatment facility in St. John’s,” McDonald says.
“That’s in need of a huge upgrade. Here locally I’m sure Paradise, C.B.S., Harbour Grace, Carbonear, and many other communities, they all need water and sewer projects and they need them desperately. We’ve done well here in CBS, but there’s still more to be done. You only have to look as far as Holyrood, where they are trying to solve a water problem and many communities are in the same boat.”
When asked about the big news of last year, the Liberal government’s legalization of marijuana, McDonald recalls standing in Carbonear Collegiate when the topic was raised by a teacher. McDonald says the students were quick to laugh when he said they all likely knew where to go to find it if they needed to buy it illegally.
“It’s better if it’s available legally,” McDonald says. “So you know what you’re buying, and you know what’s in it. Now, should students who are still in school, underneath the legal age still be able to buy it? No, and it should be a crime for them to do so. Which is the case.”
Nationally, McDonald said, the legalization of marijuana is affecting the marketplace enough to force the illegal growers and sellers out altogether.