Fisheries minister should be thankful for Senate scandal

In a year-end interview with her local newspaper The Guardian, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea complained about the amount of media coverage devoted to the "unfortunate situation" that is the Senate expense.

Shea said that all the good work being done by the Conservatives was being overshadowed by the Senate "distraction," saying "it has dominated the news when a lot of other very important things were happening."

Without a doubt, the Senate scandal has sucked up much of the political oxygen in Canada, grabbing most of the front-page headlines. Shea, though, should count herself lucky for the distraction.

After all, in the last month alone:

  • Shea rejected a plea from the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to reverse her decision to shut down the St. John's Maritime Rescue Centre, the only one enduring such a fate in Canada. "The geographic realities alone should dictate that the centre should be still in place in St. John’s," provincial Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Steve Kent told Global News. "We’ll accept nothing less." 
  • News surfaced, via internal government docs, that more than $100 million in cuts are underway at DFO despite objections of top bureaucrats who argued against the move for environmental and economic reasons. About 500 jobs are being eliminated covering Coast Guard services, patrols to stop illegal fishing activities, and scientific research to protect endangered species and prevent industrial water pollution.
  • Seven DFO libraries across Canada are closing, "including two that have been amassing books and technical reports on the aquatic realm for more than a century." The government said publicly the move is about digitizing the books, but internal DFO briefing notes contradict this, citing the "culling of materials" as the "main activities." This is what the "culling" of content at seven of nine DFO libraries looks like.
  • DFO transfered the authority to assess if a pipeline would damage fish and fish habitat to the National Energy Board. Translation: the people whose job is to protect fish transferred the job of protecting fish from pipelines to the people whose job is to protect pipelines. 

If you're Minister Shea, reading about every twist and turn of the Senate scandal doesn't seem so bad now. After all, when Mike Duffy referred to himself as "Gail Shea's little helper" in Ottawa, maybe he meant shielding her from all the attention DFO really deserves.

Photo: doucy. Used under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.