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Canada's aquaculture industry tense as it awaits national election results

The fate of Canada's salmon farming industry lies in voter's hands.

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It's been a hectic month for Mark Lane, executive director of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association (NAIA).

Since it was announced in late September that Justin Trudeau's Liberal party made an election promise to transition from open netpen salmon farms in British Columbia to closed-containment systems by 2025, Lane has been contacting all of the Liberal lawmakers in his province to ensure they stand apart from their party's national platform.

"Our politicians are still championing for aquaculture," he said, noting the majority in the Liberal party on Canada's east coast support netpen operations. "I have no reason at this point and time to not believe them."

While Liberals winning the election would not have a direct impact on netpen salmon operations in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), Lane said he is watching this election closely.

"However the chips fall, I intend to go to Ottawa at the earliest convenience to sit down face-to-face to reaffirm commitments given during the election," he said.

Even in light of the NL government suspending Mowi's licenses for failure to report fish mortalities, politicians are still behind salmon farming in the province, he said.

"They have indicated there are areas of improvement, we're always in a continual state of improvement," he said. He noted aquaculture has a history of environmental stewardship in the province and provides much-needed coastal and rural jobs that were decimated after the collapse of the Atlantic cod fishery.

"If you are concerned about climate change, you have to include the discussion around aquaculture, because we are part of the solution for climate change," he said.

A race that's too close to call

The closely-contested race has Canada's salmon farming industry--which includes major companies such as Grieg, Mowi and Cooke--anxiously awaiting results.

As of Monday, an interactive CBC poll has shown the country's Liberal and the Conservative parties remain virtually deadlocked with roughly equal levels of support nationwide.

The Liberal party's plan has been dubbed "Canada's first-ever Aquaculture Act,"and largely echoes a plan released earlier this month by the Country's even more left-wing Green Party. Like the Green Party, Trudeau is also leading with environmental issues and has vowed to push Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Conservative party, led by Andrew Scheer, blasted Trudeau for his aquaculture proposal. The party said in its platform it instead plans to create a "modern Aquaculture Act."

While not laying out many details about what that proposal entails, the party states it would "increase pathogen testing for open pen aquaculture sites," to mitigate risks between wild and farmed salmon.

The Conservative party also blasted Trudeau for putting the industry at risk with a proposal to move to closed containment in such a short amount of time.

"Justin Trudeau’s promise to move the BC salmon-farming industry to landbased, closed containment by 2025 will put 7,000 jobs in BC on the line," the Conservative platform says. "Three thousand more jobs in Atlantic Canada will be put on notice. Behind closed doors, Justin Trudeau has acknowledged that land-based closed containment is not commercially viable. This impossible timeline sends a clear signal that he does not want this billion-dollar Canadian industry to survive."

When it was announced, Trudeau's proposal came as a surprise to many in the industry, according to John Paul Fraser, executive director with the BC Salmon Farmers Association.

"This commitment was nothing more than a ridiculous game of chess where our industry got thrown overboard for seats in Vancouver," he recently told IntraFish.

A potentially messy election

Polls are showing neither Liberals or Conservatives are likely to win the majority, which could prove challenging for governing, according recent CBC analysis of the election.

If neither the Liberal nor Conservative party win 170 out of the 338 seats in the country's House of Commons, then technically, Trudeau as Prime Minister can remain until he formally resigns or is dismissed by the Governor General, the news site says.

That can be followed by several options, including the Liberal party trying to form a coalition with the Green Party, which could in turn, force a whole new election, even if Conservatives beat out the Liberal party for votes.


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