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Thursday, June 23, 2005

The FPI Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy theories have been a part of society from the time Eve gave Adam a light snack at the prodding of a conniving serpent. Some say it’s in the nature of large cultures to suspect an unknown entity of manipulating their lives. Others insist on looking for some unseen hand if the morning paper arrives late. I don’t count myself in either of these groups but rather as a skeptical believer.

We don’t have far to look to see the possibility of conspiracy all around us in Newfoundland and Labrador. The hard times we’ve had in the, “far east of the western world”, for centuries, provide plenty of fodder for this type of thinking. Granted hard times may just be hard times, but could there really be some subtle hand pulling unseen strings in our everyday lives, throwing a spanner in the works and secretly leading us in some unknown direction?

Take FPI for example. Fishery Products International are saying they would like to sell off 40% of their marketing wing. To do this they require the Provincial Government to agree to that sale. Consider as well the dire predicament of the town of Harbour Breton. This is indeed the stuff conspiracy theories are made of.

Many questions immediately leap to mind while trying to twist the grey cells around this particular issue.

First and foremost, why would a company spend untold millions to buy factory freezer vessels one day and the next claim to be in grave financial difficulty? Why too would they want to sell off nearly half of their most profitable business line? The requirement for a cash infusion is one thing, but what kind of future can a company have if it sells off its biggest money maker? Is there more going on here than we the people are aware of?

Add to this the Harbour Breton situation and we have a plausible case of conspiracy beginning to form.

Back in November when plant workers were told they would be out of work very little was done to help them. Months later, at the same time FPI is going to government for approval on their sale, Harbour Breton is brought into the mix and used by the company as a blackmail tool to pressure MHA’s into voting in their favour. Is this a coincidence?

Enter the Provincial and Federal Governments, a credible villain for any conspiracy.

The province claims they are negotiating with the company to get the best deal they can for the town, but at the same time the Premier claims he doesn’t want to be, “too heavy handed with FPI”. This coming from a man who forced the Federal Government into a $2.6 billion dollar deal on offshore revenues by lowering the Canadian flag, who forced our biggest public sector union back to work and who told the oil industry in no uncertain terms that there would be no more free rides.

The difficulty in gaining a much needed fish quota for the town is also a situation of interest. The Province claims it’s a federal decision to issue a quota. The Feds say the Province must find a quota for the town. Who is telling the truth?

Yes, the Feds issue quotas, but the Province controls processing.

There was a quota used in Harbour Breton for years, what happened to it? Currently FPI plans to use the quota in another plant which brings up even more questions. Why was FPI allowed to keep the quota? One would think that their original quotas were issued based on the number of processing facilities and when one was shut down they would have lost a portion of their allotment. This does not appear to be the case.

The province claims it cannot force FPI to relinquish a part of the quota but they had no qualms implementing raw materials sharing in the crab industry. This program saw the province dictate precisely how much crab could be processed in specific plants. If they can legislate crab distribution among plants then why not other species?

Over the last couple of days some well placed sources have been saying that none other than Brian Tobin, Captain Canada himself, has been working behind the scenes in an effort to lobby the government of the province in an effort to push the deal through.

To cap all of this off, one only has to check the Toronto Stock Exchange listings on this company to see that they have a market value of about $106 million. One has to ask the question, if the entire company, plants, quotas, equipment, ships and the U.S. marketing division is worth $106 million, how can they expect to get $100 million for a mere 40% of the marketing division by itself?

People are beginning to wonder quite loudly if there is more going on behind the scenes of this whole situation than we are aware. I have to admit that they are starting to build a pretty good case for just that.

I don’t want to be labeled a conspiracy theorist, but sometimes when people are out to get you, paranoia is just good thinking. Maybe one day I’ll let you know my thoughts on the connection between high oil prices, Kyoto requirements and out migration in the province.


Mike said...

Great Piece. I am a consiracy bug when it comes to this issue. I know in my heart that the government will put this legislation through and we will not know the impact or the real reason for years.

This is another huge giveaway and harbour breton is just a smoke screen.

Derrick R. said...

There is no such conspiracy. Absolutely not!!