PORT AUX BASQUES – On July 20, Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources Gerry Byrne announced a $100,000 feasibility study to determine live holding, cold storage and transportation at Gander Airport and Port aux Basques for fresh and live seafood products destined for national and international markets.
MHA Andrew Parsons (Burgeo-LaPoile) says he played only an indirect role, and notes that with Marine Atlantic’s ferries docking in the town harbour, it only makes sense to include Port aux Basques in the study.
“There’s only two ways to get it out – by boat and by air,” said Parsons via phone interview. “They’ll do the feasibility study now, which I’m extremely confident will come up positive.”
Parsons says that part of his job is to ‘help nag’ to keep the process moving forward, especially since the reality of COVID-19 has already resulted in delays.
Parsons says the feasibility study, which will likely entail a Request For Proposals (RFP), will determine what would be necessary in terms of physical structures, human resources, and the cost of all materials involved to run such a facility. He hopes to work with government and the town to make the holding facility a reality, which would eventually lead to more jobs to this region.
He concedes the process may be slower than usual.
“Things are naturally delayed. Then you throw in the collapse of the oil industry in many ways. You look at the very extremely frightening, in my opinion, fiscal update that came out of it,” observes Parsons. “In my opinion, it’s going to take a lot of work.”
Heading up the provincial Liberals in undertaking that work will be new party leader Andrew Furey. Parsons has been vocal in his support of Furey. The two have known each other for around a decade.
“This signals to me a new beginning, and like all new beginnings they’re exciting because there’s potential, there’s opportunity,” says Parsons.
But while the MHA may support Furey and be excited for change, he offers a reality check regarding the massive challenges facing this province.
“As much as I support Andrew Furey,” says Parsons, “I think people need to recognize there’s no silver bullet or saviour that’s going to come in and fix this. It requires absolutely everybody and that’s not just elected politicians. I think it’s time for everybody to be cognizant of the situation we’re in.”
Part of that situation involved rethinking how he interacts with the public. Parsons has consistently been an approachable and accessible public servant, but he finds himself now confined to video conferences, telephone calls and emails as opposed to getting out in the district he serves.
“It’s difficult to be a politician because you’re expected to be so outward and shaking hands and slapping backs and kissing babies as they say, and that’s gone.”
If there’s a bright side, it’s that he’s never been more accessible electronically. In some cases, he’s found meetings and video clips more efficient than driving 45 minutes down the coast to tackle projects or problems in person.
“We’re just so used to being so friendly,” he says. “It’s tough because you go around half the time feeling you’re being rude or awkward or don’t know how to be.”
But Parsons says his role as Justice Minister is more suited to remote work.
“I don’t need to be there in person for every decision,” says Parsons. “That’s just the nature of that department. I don’t need to be sitting there at a desk in St. John’s to be effective.”
On a personal level, Parsons admits that his family is dealing with heightened immuno-compromisation in his own household, and like every other parent, he’s also wondering about the resumption of the school year in September before conceding he feels a bit of anxiety.
“I’m like everybody else. I watch the news and wonder about the second wave,” says Parsons. “There’s so many things to consider.”