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New DFO minister is inheriting a boatload of issues, says expert

Arctic sovereignty, environmental protections among issues Bernadette Jordan faces

4 min read
caption Bernadette Jordan is the MP for South Shore—St. Margarets

A marine affairs expert says Bernadette Jordan will have many pressing issues to sort out in her new role as minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian coast guard.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Jordan to her new position on Wednesday.

The Nova Scotia Liberal MP was previously the minister of rural economic development. She  served as a member and chair of the standing committee on fisheries and oceans before joining Trudeau’s cabinet earlier this year.

Although her time on the fisheries committee gives her some knowledge of the issues she’ll be dealing with as head of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Hugh Williamson said her new job won’t be easy.

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“Her desk is going to be pretty full,” said Williamson, a marine affairs professor at Dalhousie University.

Williamson highlighted three crucial issues Jordan will likely be tasked with resolving in her new position, relating to the three distinct components of her ministry.


On the fisheries side of things, maintaining export markets for Canadian seafood will be the biggest challenge for Jordan, said Williamson.

He said he’s concerned about the growing trade tensions between Canada and two of the country’s key trading partners: China and the U.S. Given that they’re two of the largest importers of Canadian seafood, he said it would be disastrous for Canadian fisheries if they decided to impose trade barriers on seafood products.


In terms of Canada’s oceans, Jordan will have to calm tensions in the Arctic surrounding issues of sovereignty and security.

“The Chinese and the Russians are being quite aggressive in their scientific explorations up in the Arctic,” said Williamson.

Jordan will have to work with other ministers to ensure Canada’s waters in the North are protected from foreign interests, he said.

Coast Guard

Finally, Williamson noted the ongoing troubles of securing a new fleet for the Canadian Coast Guard.

Jordan will be responsible for maneuvering through competing corporate interests from shipbuilding companies like Irving and Seaspan to ensure the new fleet is actually built.

Controversial Ocean Protection Plan

Jordan will have the job of balancing the concerns of the minority Liberal government’s goal of environmental protection with the needs of Nova Scotia fishermen.

The Liberals amended the Oceans Act in early 2019, which required Canada to protect 10 per cent of its coast through the creation of marine protected areas, known as MPAs. And in his recent election platform, Trudeau increased this target to 25 per cent by 2025.

One of the proposed MPAs will be in the Eastern Shore Islands area, near Jordan’s local riding of South Shore-St. Margarets.

caption The proposed MPA for Eastern Shore Islands.
Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Fishermen in the area are worried that the MPA will affect their livelihoods by prohibiting commercial fishing.

Jordan made it clear that an MPA doesn’t automatically require a ban on fishing.

“This isn’t about closing things off and a MPA doesn’t mean it’s a no-fish zone,” said Jordan in an interview with the Chronicle Herald in October, before the federal election.

Currently, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says the creation of the Eastern Shore Islands MPA won’t prohibit commercial fishing, but didn’t specifically say this would be the case forever.

“As risk assessment results are finalized and we’ve had further consultation, there may be a requirement to restrict other activities within certain areas,” said the DFO website. “These activities would not include lobster fishing, but could include other types of commercial fishing and industrial activities.”

While the rest of her job might be challenging, Williamson pointed out that Jordan doesn’t have to deal with the ongoing issue of Western alienation in the landlocked provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“She’s the one minister who can probably say, ‘That’s not on my plate,’” said Williamson.

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Simon Miller

Simon is a journalism student in the one-year program at the University of King's College. He covers federal politics, local sports, and everything...

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  1. D


    You neglected to mention that she will have to deal with the major controversies of the cruel commercial seal "hunt" and the mismanagement of fisheries - over-fishing several species, including capelin, and continued directed cod fisheries even though the species has yet to recover.
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