New tax “too much, too fast” fishermen say - Changes needed to proposed licensing fees

November 23, 1995

An umbrella group representing the country’s largest fishermen’s organizations says the Canadian Government plan to increase license fees by approximately $50 million is a new form of taxation that will push many independent fishermen out of the fishery.

“Canadian fishermen just don’t have $50 million to hand over to the Finance Department and Treasury Board”, says Earle McCurdy, President of the Fish Food
and Allied Workers (FFAW) in Newfoundland. “This is a poorly designed, punitive tax that doesn’t take into account the fisherman’s ability to pay.”

According to Dennis Brown, vice-president of B.C.’s United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union (UFAWU), this formula for new license fees could force many
Pacific coast fishermen out of business. “Most B.C. salmon fishermen have had a disastrous year. Come January 1, they’ll be facing a huge hike in their fixed costs, months before the fishery even starts. It could wipe a lot of them out”, he said.

The Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters (CCPFH) met with the Deputy Minister this week to suggest changes to the licensing fees. The Council
says the Government new licensing fee formula is a bureaucratically conceived tax that doesn’t take into account the economic realities facing most fishermen. The formula being proposed by the DFO is based on gross sales from specific fisheries.

Council President, François Poulin of the Alliance des pêcheurs professionnels du Québec (APPQ), explained that in many fisheries the net returns to fishermen are only a fraction of gross sales. In these fisheries the new tax would simply make it uneconomical for many owner operators to stay in the fishery.

“On the other hand you have a handful of corporations that are making windfall profits from high value fisheries like the northern shrimp and offshore scallops. The new tax won’t make the slightest dent in their earnings”, Poulin said.

“Canadian fisheries policy is at a crossroads” Poulin added. “Either we maintain our commitment to independent, community based fishing enterprises or we go the route of corporate concentration. The independent fisherman is the backbone of the coastal economy. Put unrealistic fiscal pressures on these family businesses and you undermine the whole coastal economy”, he added.

The Council members will be meeting with Fisheries Minister Brian Tobin in two weeks to press for major changes to the new fee formula. “The Minister has shown that he is open to correcting any unfairness in the fees”, Poulin said.

“This is too much, too fast, said McCurdy. There have to be changes to lessen the impact on the fishermen if this thing is going to work.”


You can see the media release in its original format here.