Provincial leader to Harper: Don't ignore the lobsters

Thu Jan 15, 2009 7:55pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - While a bailout of the auto sector may ease the pain in some parts of Canada, one provincial leader made the case on Thursday for special attention to the industry that matters most in his region -- lobsters.

Robert Ghiz, premier of Prince Edward Island on the Atlantic Coast, said he would point out the Atlantic lobster fishery's woes in a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week to discuss the upcoming budget.

"We want to make sure the federal government realizes there are different industries in different parts of the country that are being affected by the slowdown in the economy," he said.

"In Ontario we see the slowdown with regards to the auto sector and in eastern Canada, for example Prince Edward Island, we've got a slowdown with regards to the lobster fishery. The U.S. is buying less lobster," he said.

It was not clear what specific action Ghiz would ask of Ottawa, which has pledged C$4 billion ($3.2 billion) to the Canadian arms of the Detroit automakers to keep them operating while they restructure their businesses.

The fisheries and agriculture industry accounts for 15 percent of Prince Edward Island's economy while the auto sector represents 5 percent of Ontario's economy, Ghiz said.

Penny-pinching consumers in the United States and Europe have led to a slump in restaurant demand for lobsters, turning the C$1 billion a year industry into the latest victim of the global economic downturn.

($1=$1.25 Canadian)

(Reporting by Louise Egan; editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)