Federal fisheries minister refuses to reverse decision on surf clam licence

Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc has rejected calls to reverse his recent decision to award a multimillion-dollar Arctic surf clam fishing licence to a Nova Scotia company.

LeBlanc says he understands there are hurt feelings among failed bidders, but he insisted the Cape Breton-based company and its Indigenous partners made the best case for Indigenous participation.

The minister was responding to complaints from the Newfoundland and Labrador government and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq chiefs.

Both the province and the Mi'kmaq group say the company that was awarded the licence, Five Nations Clam Company, did not have Indigenous partners from Labrador or Nova Scotia, as the minister claimed when he made the announcement Feb. 21.

LeBlanc now says the proposal from Five Nations had "reserved spots" for Indigenous groups that may have been part of competing bids, which suggests the company did not have firm agreements in place when the licence was awarded.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne says such a flimsy arrangement wouldn't meet the criteria for the federal government's request for proposals, and he renewed his call for LeBlanc to reverse his decision.