MP under fire for spreading falsehoods about salmon farms

Rachel Blaney, MP for North Island–Powell River taken to task for making false assertions about BC’s salmon farming sector in letter to minister.

By Fabian Dawson

BC’s salmon farmers are cautioning Vancouver Island MP Rachel Blaney to stop misrepresenting the Federal Government’s ongoing efforts to develop a transition plan for the province’s open-net aquaculture sector.

Blaney, the NDP MP for North Island–Powell River and her husband a have been key players in the activist movement to oust salmon farmers from BC oceans, which will kill thousands of jobs.

The BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) said Blaney, in a letter to new Federal Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier on September 13, 2023, made several false statements.

“As our Member of Parliament, you continue to show that you do not have the best interests of the families and communities in your riding…In your letter (to the minister), you made several false statements,” said Brian Kingzett, BCSFA, Executive Director, said in a note to Blaney.

Contrary to what Blaney claims and what is being propagated by the MP’s activist allies, there is no current government mandate to remove salmon farms from the ocean, said Kingzett.

The most current language regarding the BC salmon farming Transition Plan is from the 2022 DFO Discussion Framework, which states, “The proposed vision of this open-net pen transition plan is to advance innovation and growth of sustainable aquaculture in British Columbia that progressively minimizes or eliminates interactions between open-net pens and wild salmon, while also taking into account social, cultural and economic objectives.” 

Additionally, all farms operating in BC are currently done in agreement, negotiation, or established partnerships with First Nations in whose territories we operate.

In her letter to the minister, Blaney makes several false statements, including:

  • “As I am sure you are aware, the government has decided to remove fish farms from the water.”;
  • “In 2020, the Liberal government said it would phase out fish farms by 2022.” And;
  • “The government needs to follow through on its commitment to remove the fish farms from the water.”

Kingzett said the federal government is not committed to removing fish farms from the water and did not state it would phase out fish farms by 2022.

Further the mandate letters to the Fisheries ministers instructs them to come up with a plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025 and begin to work to introduce Canada’s first-ever Aquaculture Act.

The salmon farming sector in British Columbia is a vital part of the local economy and Canada’s Blue Economy, providing $1.2 billion in annual economic activity and supporting nearly 7,000 jobs in coastal indigenous and non-indigenous communities.

Blaney in her recent letter urged the federal government to come up with a transition plan for the impacted workers.

“By asking for a plan to transition our workers, your letter demonstrates your personal agenda to remove salmon farms. You are asking for workers – from the communities you are supposed to represent and fight for – to lose their jobs,” said KIngzett.

“A small short-term monetary fix will not offset the long-term devastation these communities will experience if our sector is forced to move to land and leave British Columbia. Two-thirds of salmon farming employees are under 35. Many young people are attracted to the sector to stay in their home communities or set roots in rural coastal communities. If the farms are removed, they will be forced to move elsewhere, further devastating the rural coastal communities you have been entrusted to represent,” said Kingzett.

“MP Blaney, we strongly recommend you do your due diligence. Speak with the First Nations within whose territories we operate. Speak with the many supplier and service companies that rely on the salmon farming sector. Speak with the young people who will lose their jobs and their ability to remain in their hometowns.

“Without doing so, you will not understand the real human impacts of your statements. Salmon farmers are members of your constituency too,” added Kingzett.

Image – screenshot of Rachel Blaney in the House of Commons