The Federal Competition Act

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to include fish pricing in the Federal Competition Act with planned amendments to the legislation.

“The only industry in Canada excluded from the Federal Competition Act is the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery, and the inshore fleet pays the price in terms of less money for their fish,” says Ryan Cleary, Executive Director of SEA-NL.

In the federal budget released earlier this month, the Trudeau government revealed plans to make amendments to toughen Canadian competition laws. As part of those changes, government pledged to tackle anti-competitive conspiracies between competitors that hurt workers.

Fish price negotiations in this province — the structure of which was described last year by the premier’s economy recovery team as “anti-competitive by nature” — are excluded from the federal Competition Act (Section 4).

“In Newfoundland and Labrador processors can import snow crab from the Maritimes and Quebec for processing at local plants, while those same processors can order the inshore fleet — which can’t access outside buyers — tied to the wharf on trip limits,” Cleary said.

“How is that fair in terms of competition?” asked Cleary, who’s writing the Prime Minister with a formal request. “Fish prices paid to our owner-operators are too often much less than the prices paid to fleets across the Gulf, and that fundamental unfairness can only end when the playing field is levelled in terms of fair competition.”

Owner-operators in this province often complain they cannot move freely between buyers/processors, and processing companies have been accused of working together as a cartel to keep fish prices down.

Cleary said that the panel system of fish pricing — which is exclusive to Newfoundland and Labrador and enshrined in provincial government legislation — often does not result in the inshore fleet getting a fair market share from the sale of fish.

Contact Ryan Cleary: 709 682 4862