Here's a downer. The McNeil government appears to be slipping into the rut the NDP government was in. That rut got it turfed out of office: sudden herky-jerky decisions out of central command, no one consulted, the public rattled and things blowing up. You've heard the to-do over film credits, university governance and sudden cuts to community groups. And now this one is back: our old friend the open-pen salmon issue.
What is it about the Harper government's special kink about fisheries -- and the media's failure to hold it to account for its unrelenting assault on it and everything related to it (including environment, foreign affairs and the abuse of Parliament) -- which, more than anything, reveals the government's nasty streak?
An inquiry on the future of aquaculture in Nova Scotia will report this spring, not a minute too soon. Fish farming, an industry of huge promise in a province with uniquely varied waters, has been set back by public policy obsessed with Big Salmon.
Here's a peek at the promising part.
Just down the salt-water lake from me here at Ste-Anne-du-Ruisseau, Yarmouth County, Nolan d'Eon's "Ruisseau oysters" have shown up in fancy dining magazines in Toronto along with Malpeque and Bras d'Or. He's creating a brand on a very small area of water.
Budget time is approaching in Nova Scotia, as elsewhere. Not just any budget time, but that special variety that precedes an election (this fall, I'd guess). You can usually tell by the tension in the media/political complex. The government is preparing for the buckets of vitriol that will fall on its head when it announces that it can't balance the budget this year as promised, and there's a howl over a $27-million accounting error in last year's budget.
Open-pen salmon farming in Nova Scotia is barely set up, and already it's a billowing disaster. The infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus has hit -- here as in many other places -- and reputable scientists are saying it may not be possible to grow salmon in open pens in these waters without the affliction.
The official solution is hardly convincing and somewhat startling. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has declared ISA fish fit for human consumption for the first time, and they're being processed and marketed. But the Americans don't want them crossing the border, and reputable grocery chains and restaurants don't want them either. Even if they are harmless to humans (if not necessarily to other fish), "eat sick fish" is hardly a winning ad line.