You have to hand it to Kathy Dunderdale. She can sure spin a political yarn.
If you are gullible enough to swallow the bait, the Premier would have you believe government is bravely defending our fishery in the face of big bad Ottawa (yes another trip back to the “us versus Ottawa” well) and their evil accomplices, the European Union (EU).
She says the federal government is pressuring her to drop our minimum fish processing requirements (the ones that say our own fish must be processed here to a certain level before being exported) so they can lock down their free trade agreement with the EU (it’s been reported publicly for some time the EU is keen to have that happen). She further suggested that Stephen Harper has even brought the issue up in the midst of talks over a federal loan guarantee for the Muskrat Falls project.
It all feels like a great big load of misdirection.
First of all, the premier doesn’t need the federal government or anyone else to pressure her to drop provincial fish processing requirements because her government is already doing exactly that at the request of Ocean Choice International (OCI). The government recently granted OCI’s request to bypass the provincial regulations so it can ship out tens of millions of pounds of redfish and yellowtail flounder in mostly whole form.
At this point, the past two provincial fisheries ministers and even the Premier herself are on record as saying these types of arrangements are likely going to be more prevalent in the future.
And it won’t end with redfish and yellowtail. Already the FFAW has asked the province to relax those same rules to allow fishermen to sell one million pounds of crab outside the province.
On the processing side, OCI spokesman Blaine Sullivan was recently quoted publicly saying that his very influential company “supports the complete removal of minimum processing requirements for all species.”
“OCI strongly believes that minimum processing requirements are costing jobs in the province, resulting in less economic value and lower returns for fishers,” Sullivan said. “We can and will be competitive without this restrictive policy and we welcome the opportunity for more free enterprise in the fishery.”
Whether these arrangements outside the processing regulations are right or wrong, is not for me to say.
But for the premier to present the idea that she battled to protect regulations that her own government has already allowed to be bypassed — and that they have suggested will likely be bypassed as part of future fish processing in NL — is a little chuckle-worthy.
Even funnier is the suggestion that she was willing to kill the federal loan guarantee for Muskrat Falls over the issue. The current government is absolutely fixated on that project. It’s an obsession. Can anyone REALLY see them saying “no” to a Muskrat Falls loan guarantee over a few pesky fish processing rules?
Yeah. Me either.
So was this some attempt to just put more attention on the loan guarantee issue?
Or was this a way to set up future relaxation of minimum fish processing requirements?
Or was this just some politically opportunistic smoke and mirrors gig to boost poll numbers with a good ol’ fashioned snit-fest with Ottawa?
It sure was an odd red herring to throw out, unprocessed or not.
Jamie Baker is the managing editor for The Navigator magazine, www.thenavigatormagazine.com
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