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Trudeau’s $100-million fisheries deal may have just bought NL premier’s endorsement of CETA

St. John’s chapter activist Ken Kavanagh (top) has challenged Premier Dwight Ball (left) and federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc (right) on MPRs and CETA.

An outstanding obstacle to the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has been the Newfoundland and Labrador government’s demand for compensation for the loss of minimum processing requirements (MPRs) under the deal.

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.”

That article adds, “Currently, minimum local processing requirements are in place to protect jobs, particularly in more remote fishing communities. When CETA takes effect, export restrictions must end — except for Newfoundland and Labrador’s processing requirements, which will be phased out over three years.”

And now today, CBC reports, “The federal government  [has just] announced a $325-million Atlantic Fisheries Fund — about $100 million of which is intended for Newfoundland and Labrador.  Liberal MP Judy Foote, the federal minister of Public Services and Procurement, announced the fund at a press conference at the Marine Institute in St. John’s, following a similar press conference by Dominic LeBlanc, federal Fisheries minister, in Halifax. 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 but never materialized.”

Council of Canadians St. John’s chapter activist Ken Kavanagh has also highlighted that the processing sector is constitutionally the responsibility of the province (as per the Terms of Union) and that before any concessions can be made on that constitutional right, a serious consultation with the public must happen. That consultation has not happened. Kavanagh says, “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.”

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

It is not clear when the province will move legislation to implement CETA, as the Trudeau government has already done federally with Bill C-30.

CBC has additionally reported, “[The] ratification by the European Parliament [in a plenary vote last month] puts CETA on track to kick in as early as April 1, assuming Canada’s federal and provincial governments complete the legal and regulatory changes required to comply with the new deal.”