I have to say, I was a little surprised by the story in Mondays Telegram, that the provinces refusal to participate in trade talks between Canada and the European Union nearly derailed the whole thing.
So, it nearly made a difference. Nearly.
Whoop-de-doo to that.
And now where do we find ourselves? Sitting on the outside, acting proud, strong and whatever, while a trade deal of international proportions is being negotiated. Without us.
Where's the logic in that?
The premier announced back in February that this province would not be participating in the talks because he doesnt trust Stephen Harper to negotiate on our behalf. Heres the opening paragraph from the provinces February 20 news release:
While Newfoundland and Labrador fully supports improved trade with the European Union, any actions taken in that regard must address priority areas of concern for the province said the Honourable Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. In particular, the province is extremely hesitant to allow the Federal Government to head these negotiations, given past actions that question their commitment to issues of importance to the province.
Did you catch that? The province is extremely hesitant to allow the Government of Canada to head these negotiations. Funny. And then theres this:
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is unable to support this at this time on the basis of very genuine concerns that our provinces issues may not be safeguarded or dealt with in an appropriate way by the Federal Government, added Premier Williams. In particular, long standing issues such as custodial management of our fishery, a proposed ban on seal products into the EU and prohibitive tariffs on seafood products entering the EU represent significant issues of concern that have been left unaddressed by the Federal Government for far too long. Newfoundland and Labrador has not received any assurances that a Canada-EU agreement would include protection for measures such as the Atlantic Accords and Fish Inspection Act. Additionally, a track record of a lack of substantive and inclusive consultation on federal-provincial issues gives Newfoundland and Labrador great cause for concern, particularly in light of the far reaching implications of a possible Canada-EU trade agreement.
In other words, I dont trust you foxes with these chickens, therefore Im leaving the henhouse right now!
(Never mind the hypocrisy in the premiers complaint about tariffs on seafood products. The province praised the Government of Canada in 2007 for helping to relax some of the punitive quotas the EU levies on our shrimp exports.)
Do you suspect, as I do, that this has more to do with the ongoing battle with Ottawa, than it does any specific economic issue? I can see you nodding. You know its true. Some of you are even rationalizing that its okay; the premier is just fighting for us. As long as hes fighting someone, he must be doing something right. Right?
This is where I part company with you. I think the premier is stepping back from these talks in anticipation of gaining new ammunition with which to beat Ottawa about the head and ears. (Once again, were getting the shaft from Ottawa.) If he participates in the talks, however, it will be less easy to blame someone else for any unfavourable outcome.
But heres the simple truth: its the premiers job to roll up his sleeves and get face and eyes into these negotiations. If he or his proxy is not at that table, raising a bit of hell and defending our interests, then who is? Nobody.
The premier has suggested that the province will stand on its own on the international stage, negotiating its own trade deals, if necessary.
Um, yeah. Good luck with that. Heres an excerpt from yesterdays Telegram story:
In March, Williams floated the idea of Newfoundland and Labrador inking its own bilateral deal with the Europeans.?
Williams said at the time if that means that there's an agreement between Canada and 12 jurisdictions, and there has to be a separate agreement negotiated with Newfoundland and Labrador, then I'm fine with that.??
But that's not going to happen, Oram (of the EU delegation) indicated.?
The Government of Canada is the only government with the authority to conclude international treaties under the Canadian constitution, so our interlocutor and negotiating partner will be the government of Canada, she said. And it will be for Canada to organize itself in relation to the involvement of the provinces.
If its not too late, I would suggest Premier Williams invite himself back into those trade talks, and start fighting for this province in a forum where it can actually make a difference.
One final thing. That February 20 news release concerned an issue pretty crucial to the economic future of Newfoundland and Labrador. So when do you suppose it was released?
On a Friday afternoon, at 5:20 pm.
Shouldnt someone be taken out and shot for that?