No Consultation is Par for the Course
By: Ryan Young
Last week we heard that the fees for hunting in the province are on the rise. A thirty percent rise for local hunters and a fifty percent increase for non-residents. The government claims that due to the current fiscal “crisis” they need to increase fees across the board and that there has not been a fee increase for big game in well over a decade.
Liberal Tourism Critic Stelman Flynn says that outfitters were not consulted about the fee increases and that some operators will have to recoup tens of thousands of dollars that will be lost on licenses that were sold as part of packages in 2014. Flynn says that the approximately 125 outfitters in the province are unhappy with the decision to raise fees this year. He says it is time that the government stop paying lip service to the tourism industry. Fellow Liberal caucus member Christopher Mitchelmore echoed Flynn’s comments in the House of Assembly, asking if the fee increase can wait one year to avoid outfitter losses.
Minister responsible for Service NL and Environment and Conservation Dan Crummell defended the move on VOCM Nightline with Jonathan Richler. The discussion started with the host mentioning his homemade maple syrup and the Minister saying “I guess I’ll have to steal some from ya.” At the risk of sounding partisan I would say that comment is very apt, when discussing the current government's attitude toward the people, but I digress. The Minister went on to say that they regularly consult with the outfitting industry but that they did not consult them on the fee increase. He says it will cost outfitters on average $5600 this year but that they should have foreseen a fee increase and planned accordingly. When asked when the fees last went up the Minister was unable to recall but he did say that fees had been reduced in 2007. That comment leaves this writer wondering how outfitters were supposed to “foresee” a fee increase when the Minister himself can’t even recall the last time fees were increased.
The fact of the matter is that as we try to grow the tourism industry in this province government has stepped in with another rushed policy that will cost our hard working tourism outfitters thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. Whether or not the government is paying lip service only to tourism outfitters as Stelman Flynn suggests, it is clear that the government has no intentions of consulting with the groups that are most affected by these fee increases. Am I surprised? No. Am I concerned? You better believe it. Whenever you have a government that feels so entitled that it doesn’t even consider discussion on major issues to be relevant, you are stepping into dangerous territory. Brushing aside legitimate concerns breeds dissatisfaction and the tories seem to be breeding that wherever they turn. Perhaps when the election dust has settled Minister Crummell and the rest of team blue will realize the importance of listening to the people they were elected to represent.