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Newfoundland must defend Minimum Processing Requirements, say Council of Canadians

OTTAWA – After CBC news reported that Newfoundland and Labrador has been lax in respecting its minimum processing requirements allowing companies many exemptions, the Council of Canadians expressed concern. Minimum processing requirements ensure that fish is processed in the province, keeping jobs in the local rural economy. However, the exemptions allow raw fish to be exported – and jobs with them.

“In no way should Newfoundland and Labrador cede on minimum standards. It is our constitutional right and we must defend it. We cannot capitulate to the big fish companies on requests for exemptions,” says Ken Kavanagh, Newfoundland and Labrador board member of the Council of Canadians.

Under CETA, the Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement, minimum processing requirements would be abandoned. Recently, Newfoundland and Labrador has said it would not respect CETA because the federal government had reneged on its promise to compensate the province for the loss of MPRs.

“The CBC report shows that if we don’t defend our right to control our own economy, it can easily be traded away by big companies. If the Newfoundland government is already playing fast and loose with MPRs, imagine what will happen when the flood gates of CETA open, and Newfoundland and Labrador fishing jobs are no longer protected at all,” added Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians.

Along with losing regulations that protect fishing jobs, CETA could force Canadians to pay investors for profits lost under investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions. In 2012, for example, NAFTA tribunals ruled that Newfoundland could not require Hibernia oil field producers to invest some of their profits back into research and development.

In 2010, the Harper government paid $130 million to settle an investor-state claim with AbitibiBowater. While the company was in bankruptcy proceedings, Newfoundland tried to save jobs by expropriating the Grand Falls Windsor mill. In response, the company charged that this expropriated the company's water and timber rights.

Already, Newfoundland and Labrador will face millions in increased costs for pharmaceutical drugs, given that the Harper government agreed to extending patent protection to highly profitable drug companies under CETA. In 2011, the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association estimated the cost to Newfoundland and Labrador of this provision would be $13.2 million a year. Another study that same year by two of Canada's top academics on pharmaceutical policy put the price tag at $46 million a year.

The Council of Canadians continues to lobby against CETA and has met with members of parliament in Europe and in Canada.