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The Council of Canadians opposes the loss of minimum processing requirements under CETA

Council of Canadians activist Ken Kavanagh

Newfoundland and Labrador-based Council of Canadians Board member Ken Kavanagh was on CBC Radio on Monday (March 20) speaking in opposition to the loss of minimum processing requirements (MPRs) under the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Kavanagh says, “In terms of Newfoundland’s history, we keep talking about no more give-aways, [but] I see this as the biggest give away of all because we’re giving up on a constitutional right. When we joined Canada the federal government took over management of the stocks and apparently we’re supposed to be in control of the processing sector. And what we’re doing now by giving up the MPRs is we’re giving up a very strong aspect of that processing responsibility.”

He adds, “My understanding is that the EU specifically went after our MPRs and that it was the processing sector in the EU that wanted these regulations no longer in existence so they must see a tremendous advantage here. And the advantage is they have an over capacity of processing in the European Union and they want more raw products. Clearly in my mind they want to encourage people to catch fish in our waters to have them sent over to the EU to be processed. And that means nothing more than a loss of jobs in rural Newfoundland. And I think that’s a shame.”

And Kavanagh highlights, “To me these MPRs are an economic tool. A tool that allows the governments of this province where they see fit to make sure that this province gets the maximum benefit from their fishery resource. And we’re giving that up!”

To listen to the full 10-minute interview with Kavanagh, please click here.

In terms of background, CBC has reported, “In October 2013, [Newfoundland and Labrador] announced that Ottawa would pony up 70 per cent of the costs of a $400-million fishery fund, as part of a trade-off that would see [the province] forgo minimum processing requirements for European markets. The issue had been a flashpoint in trade discussions on [CETA]. But in December 2014, [Newfoundland and Labrador premier Paul] Davis accused the feds of putting new stipulations on their $280-million contribution to the fund, saying Ottawa was linking the cash to losses directly attributed to the province giving up MPRs [rather than as a no-strings attached payment].”

Then just last month, CBC reported, “With Canada’s trade deal with the European Union on track to come into force provisionally within weeks, the federal government is set to announce a new fisheries innovation fund. But don’t portray this new money as a way to compensate Atlantic Canada, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc told CBC News. Compensation was what Newfoundland and Labrador was looking for in the face of CETA, which will prevent Canadian provinces from placing any export restrictions on raw fish. ‘I didn’t say compensation. That was your word’, LeBlanc said.”

And on March 10, CBC reported, “The federal government  [has just] announced a $325-million Atlantic Fisheries Fund — about $100 million of which is intended for Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland’s Progressive Conservative Opposition was quick to respond, noting that $100 million was a far cry from the $280 million commitment for Newfoundland and Labrador, which was promised by the then-Conservative government [of Stephen Harper] but never materialized.”

The Council of Canadians continues to call on the Newfoundland and Labrador government to oppose CETA and to maintain the MPRs.