Tories dismiss fishing harbour repairs by federal Liberals as 'electioneering'

Fishing vessels on the Digby, N.S., waterfront are shown on Sept. 10, 2022. (Anjuli Patil/CBC - image credit)
Fishing vessels on the Digby, N.S., waterfront are shown on Sept. 10, 2022. (Anjuli Patil/CBC - image credit)

The Trudeau government has announced that dozens of small craft harbours in Atlantic Canada and Quebec will be repaired in the coming year, setting the stage to pressure political rivals to support the federal budget.

Nova Scotia Liberal MP Mike Kelloway promised more repair work is to come, thanks to $463.3 million set aside for small craft harbours over the next three years.

With the Conservatives ahead in the polls, the planned repairs are a way of putting them (and the Bloc Québécois) on the defensive with a demand they vote for the budget.

"On one hand, the Atlantic Conservatives can't claim to be the voice of fishermen and their communities, and on the other hand vote against such measures, such as investing in economic hubs in coastal Canada," said Kelloway, the parliamentary secretary to Fisheries and Oceans Minister Diane Lebouthillier, on Monday.

'Electioneering at its best,' says Conservative MP

Conservative fisheries critic Clifford Small dismissed the announcement as "electioneering at its best."

"I've reached out to small craft harbours several times since the announcement was made in the budget, and they're completely in the dark on that funding increase," he said. "They have no idea how that $463 million is to be spent."

Officials from Fisheries and Oceans said it's too early to comment on the costs of the projects because repairs and dredging are expected in the coming weeks. A breakdown will be available once the work is completed, a spokesperson said.

Small said his party has committed to double the small craft harbours budget.

He said the party would take a "wait-and-see" approach on supporting the Liberal budget.

Many of the announced repairs are for dredging

The vast majority of the projects announced Monday — 33 of 40 harbours — are for dredging, including at Ingonish in Cape Breton, which has still not fully recovered from Hurricane Fiona two and a half years ago.

Most of the 40 harbours are located east of Quebec.

Adam Burns, director general of fisheries resource management for Fisheries and Oceans, said all harbours impacted by Fiona are now operational, but longer-term work is still needed and money for that will come from the budget.

He said an analysis of dredging needs is being developed.