Where does the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador now stand on the issue of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)?
In January of this year, the provincial government announced that it was "suspending all participation in, and commitment to be bound by the outcomes of any trade agreement currently under negotiation by Canada." The province's Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development Darin King even stated, "We [could] pull the plug on CETA and Newfoundland will no longer be a part of the deal."
That was because, as CBC explains, "In October 2013, the province 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 Newfoundland and Labrador 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]."
But the Davis government's commitment to MPRs appears to have been weak from the start.
Yesterday, CBC reported, "The Newfoundland and Labrador government approved exemptions allowing millions of pounds of groundfish to be shipped out of the province unprocessed last year... In fact, the province approved exemptions permitting millions of pounds of cod to be shipped away unprocessed in 2014. Those exemptions for cod were granted to a number of different companies, including Codroy Seafoods, Golden Shell Fisheries, Quinlan Brothers, Notre Dame Seafoods and Ocean Choice International. OCI alone was granted six separate exemptions for cod in 2014, according to records obtained by CBC Investigates. ...In total, the province approved MPR exemptions of nearly three million pounds of cod to a number of companies in 2014.
And now the Harper government is expressing a new willingness to talk and is spending some money in the province too.
The Telegram reports, "[Stephen Harper's regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador] Rob Moore says feds willing to listen to proposals on how to resolve dispute over fisheries fund. The federal government is open to working with the Newfoundland and Labrador government to solve the dispute over the $400-million fisheries innovation fund associated with the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, Rob Moore said Wednesday. Moore ... was in St. John’s to announce a new $40-million coast guard building for the base on the south side of the harbour."
The Council of Canadians supports minimum processing requirements and has opposed deals with OCI in the past.
In December 2011, the Telegram reported, "The Council of Canadians is urging the Newfoundland and Labrador government to reject a plan from Ocean Choice International, which would see only 25 per cent of the total catch of redfish and flatfish processed in the company’s plant in Fortune, and the rest sold whole to markets in Europe and Asia. ...Ken Kavanagh said the government must move to protect local communities, local jobs, and increase processing regulations that protect local fisheries rather than reducing them. ...Leo Broderick [warned] the EU is seeking changes that would limit our governments’ ability to protect fishery resources and fish processing jobs at home. ...[And] Maude Barlow said, 'It is the government's job to do everything in it power to protect them, not give VIP treatment to corporations to ship the jobs away.'"
And we have called on the provincial government to hold public consultations on CETA and MPRs.
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 will keep an eye on this situation and continue to call for public consultations on CETA in Newfoundland and Labrador.
For more on our campaign to defeat CETA, please click here.