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St. John’s chapter questions constitutionality of abandoning MPRs for CETA

Ken Kavanagh

Council of Canadians activist Ken Kavanagh

The St. John’s chapter is questioning the constitutionality of abandoning Minimum Processing Requirements (MPRs) for the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

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 [MPRs] 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].”

Chapter activist Ken Kavanagh is now concerned about federal Liberal MP Judy Foote’s position on the issue.

That’s because CBC reported this morning, “There’s still a ways to go before the much-hyped deal is implemented, but Foote [the MP for Bonavista-Burin-Trinity] says talks are already taking place to address concerns that the fishery will be hurt by the removal of minimum fish processing requirements for seafood destined for the EU. …When asked Monday [March 1] if the province will have to prove losses before any money is paid, Foote said that remains to be seen. That’s the very issue that drove a wedge between former premier Paul Davis and former prime minister Stephen Harper.”

Kavanagh writes, “How can Minister Foote say MPRs will be removed? I’d remind Minister Foote that the processing sector is constitutionally the responsibility of the province. Unless the previous Davis government or the present [Dwight] Ball government have secretly signed off on relinquishment of said rights, then MPRs are not yet removed! On the latter point, if MPRs are a part of out constitutional rights (as per the Terms of Union), then before conceding on any aspect of that constitutional right, a serious consultation and public discourse with citizens of this province is mandatory. This fishery does not belong to any government of the day but to the people and no government of the day has a right to single-handedly relinquish a constitutional right to have full control of the processing sector.”

Kavanagh’s comments were read on the popular VOCM afternoon radio show Back Talk with Pete Soucy.

Soucy noted that a lot of people in Newfoundland and Labrador would agree with Kavanagh.

In December 2014, the Telegram reported, “Kavanagh wants to see the provincial government hold public consultations on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union. …’We’re being asked to give up a constitutional right not to have any further control over the processing sector’, says Kavanagh. ‘To me, that’s a pretty significant decision to make, so I think people should have a say in it.’ He says consultations would give people an opportunity to understand the CETA agreement thoroughly and have a say on whether or not it should happen.”

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

We will also have the opportunity to raise this issue when we hold our annual conference in St. John’s this coming Oct. 14-16.

Further reading
St. John’s chapter urges people to learn about CETA (May 24, 2015)