Premier says PM pushed for concessions on fishery

James McLeod
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But processing jobs may still be on the line in E.U. trade negotiations

Premier Kathy Dunderdale talks to reporters following the premier’s spring address to the St. John’s Board of Trade at the St. John’s Convention Centre Monday.
— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Premier Kathy Dunderdale said on a cold night at the end of November, she stared down Prime Minister Stephen Harper over the Muskrat Falls loan guarantee, and she won.

Dunderdale said Harper pushed pretty hard to get the government to make concessions on the fishery and onshore minimum processing requirements in exchange for the Muskrat Falls loan guarantee, but Dunderdale wouldn’t agree to a “quid pro quo.”

But at the same time, Dunderdale said what she wouldn’t trade away in November may be negotiated away around a table in Brussels, Belgium, in the next couple weeks, as Canada and the European Union put the final touches on a free trade deal.


In a speech to the St. John’s Board of Trade Monday, Dunderdale said her government doesn’t often get the credit it deserves for the work it’s doing, and that was especially clear on the loan guarantee.

She gave new details on the behind-the-scenes frantic negotiations that took place in the leadup to the Dec. 1 loan guarantee announcement, and what it might mean for the future of the province’s fishery.

“I’ve got to tell you, I never worked for anything so hard in my life as I worked for that loan guarantee,” she said. “He made a commitment to us in the election of 2011; my job was to hold his feet to the fire, and that’s what I’ve done.”

The provincial government requires that fish landed in Newfoundland and Labrador have a minimum amount of onshore processing.

For months, rumblings coming out of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations between Canada and Europe have indicated that the European Union wants minimum processing requirements dropped as part of the deal.

Dunderdale said on the eve of the loan guarantee announcement, Harper’s then-chief of staff, Nigel Wright, was pushing the province to make concessions on minimum processing requirements in the fishery.

“You want to know what the racket was about on Nov. 29? It was about the fishery, and the prime minister wanted a quid pro quo on the loan guarantee,” Dunderdale said. “Poor old Nigel Wright, ears still ringing when I smacked the phone up.”

In the final hours before the loan guarantee was announced, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Harper would be visiting Labrador. Dunderdale told reporters that no deal was reached between the province and Ottawa on the loan guarantee, and she had no plans to travel to Labrador.

Dunderdale told reporters Monday that was brinksmanship; a deal hadn’t been finalized, and it almost all fell apart at the 11th hour over the minimum processing requirements issue.

Dunderdale said again, as recently as the May 24 long weekend, International Trade Minister Ed Fast was in Newfoundland to speak to Dunderdale.

While she said she wouldn’t agree to a trade-off between Muskrat Falls and the fishery, Dunderdale wouldn’t rule out negotiating away minimum processing requirements at the CETA negotiations in Brussels.

“When you’re doing any kind of a negotiation, there’s a give and a take. And so everything goes on the table and you might say, ‘I’m prepared to give this if I can get that,’” Dunderdale told reporters. “Like anything else, if there was going to be any kind of a trade-off, then you have to see what does that do for the fishing industry.”

Dunderdale said she expects the negotiations to wrap up in the next two weeks, but at the same time, she said it’s up to the people of the province to decide whether the government should eliminate minimum processing requirements.

“There’s more work that needs to be done, and we’re certainly prepared to have a discussion within the industry here at home, and within the population at large,” she said. “Fish is another one of our natural resources.”

Twitter: TelegramJames


Organizations: European Union, Board of Trade, International Trade

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Brussels, Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Belgium Europe Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Greg
    May 28, 2013 - 22:47

    If you people knew anything about economics, you'd have already gotten rid of the socialist minimum processing requirements. All they do is create less cash flow into the province to keep a couple 14-week jobs. Congrats, you just turned down trade with the largest combined economy in the world, so you can keep a couple 14-week jobs in dying out-port communities, and to thunderous applause. The Newfoundland people continue to get the government they deserve.

  • OMG
    May 28, 2013 - 20:23

    Kathy is turning to one of NL politicians I favorite last ditch tug at the emotions that may stir by suggesting she stood up to keep the measley last part of this resource. Kathy, your arrogance and that of your support cast such as the narcissistic Kennedy has created the downside. The ship is sinking... Imagine how low it would be if the opposition were stronger! Bye Kathy!!

    May 28, 2013 - 19:05


  • mellie
    May 28, 2013 - 18:25

    think that story was cooked up. must of slipper her mind o my

  • Casey
    May 28, 2013 - 14:17

    Good for you Preier Dunderdale for standing up for NL. Never mind the naysayers on here they can't see the forest for the trees. Harper is about to sell out NL again.

    • Casey
      May 28, 2013 - 17:04

      Premier Dunderdale.

  • Graham
    May 28, 2013 - 11:50

    That LOST...CONFUSED..BEWILDERED look we all have come to know and love from our lost..confused..bewildered premier. Come on 2015 and Bye Bye Kathy.

  • It is time for Canada to be reliant on the other provinces' raw natural resources and let the province of Newfoundland and Labrador play catch up in infrastructure and economy on its own steam from the raw natural resources that are left in the ground.
    May 28, 2013 - 11:49

    Ottawa grabbed our country Newfoundland and Labrador at the most opportune time in the late 1940s when matters had been sorted out somewhat amongst the foe and allies, and they were on the cusp of an economic revolution. There was absolutely no liability on behalf of Canada grabbing Newfoundland and Labrador's land and ocean territory. Our territory was packed full of natural resources and, as was proven during the War, our territory had the most geographic and strategic location in all of North America. It was from our land mass situated on the great North Atlantic Ocean 's that the whole of North America was protected from the German invasion. Ever since that time our natural resources in the name of Fish, Minerals including Iron Ore, Nickel, etc., Hydroelectric Energy, Oil, and the Air Space and the Ocean territory has kept the whole Canadian economy percolating for the past 64 years. It is time for Canada to be reliant on the other province's raw natural resources and let the province of Newfoundland and Labrador play catch up in infrastructure and economy on its own steam from the raw natural resources that are left in the ground.

  • saelcove
    May 28, 2013 - 10:57

    someone in Labrador did that a few years ago and was called out by blunderdale during the Labrador election

  • Kevin
    May 28, 2013 - 10:35

    Katy's face is gettin browner' by the day from kissing the arse of the BIG WIGS in Ottawa. U get exactly the recognition u deserve..............NONE...because u do NOTHING only sign off on a deal for Muskrat Falls that us, as the tax payers of this province, will pay for forever.....................THATS WHAT YOU HAVE DONE FOR US......................NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • darby
    May 28, 2013 - 10:09

    this comes across as a 'look at me - I'm almost as good as Danny' attempt

  • Eric
    May 28, 2013 - 09:33

    My oh my. There she goes again. Saying and bragging how great she is and how she stands up for us all. As soon as the polls drops and her popularity decreases she's on her high horse saying how great she is. Well guess what! You are not that great as you seem. You were put in there because it was the only option for tory voting people. But you won't be in next time but I guess you will retire with your benefits you worked so hard for. Good Luck Kathy for another bragging 2 years. How you enjoy your wine at the Brussels dinner table

  • Jerome
    May 28, 2013 - 08:59

    When OCI was granted approval to export 70% of their Yellowtail Flounder, did Kathy or her numerous ministers of fisheries go on the war path? No, they put the blame on the FFAW. It's the local "cartel" that's lobbying the Harper government, not the Europeans.

    May 28, 2013 - 08:37

    Why this revelation now, you might ask? Well, for two reasons. The first is pretty obvious. In an effort to stave off single digit approval ratings, Dunderdale and her fourth floor confidants have seized on the one thing she believes might boost her popularity - disassociating herself from an even more unpopular figure in Newfoundland, Stephen Harper. The thinking goes that she can do this without offending Harper by taking careful aim at the same corpse Harper himself already threw under the bus - Nigel Wright. That and the fact that she has her loan guarantee safely tucked away in her arse-pocket. But there is another - far more insidious - reason. Her revelation is part of a pre-emptive defence for a decision she has already made to drop this province's long standing requirement for primary processing of seafood locally. It is her way of ducking responsibility for that decision by arguing that it was something forced on her by the big, bad Prime Minister's Office. She will also argue that it was the only way to get our shrimp, crab and other high value fish exports into the region responsible for killing off our seal fishery and decimating our cod stocks. She will fire up Steve Kent and the other pimple-faced, finger-flicking, facebook crowd to ensure there are lots of congratulatory messages on forums like this. Together they will shout down anyone who dares speak the ugly truth - that this decision will be the last nail in the coffin of outport Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Martina
    May 28, 2013 - 08:27

    She realizes that Harper is not popular and it is safe to remove her lips from his arse. Never forget the Dunderfail govts response when SAR failed Burton Winters.

  • DON II
    May 28, 2013 - 08:04

    It appears that Premier Dunderdale is some proud of herself for taking advice from her high level bureaucrats and holding out for a loan guarantee from the "Harper" Government without any strings attached. No strings attached. No "quid pro quo" that's right, you heard it! That is Latin for something in return for something else, right? No strings attached indeed! The Federal loan guarantee for the Muskrat Falls project is the same as if you co-signed for a loan for your son. Everything will be fine as long as your son does not default on his loan. But what happens if he does? What happens if Muskrat Falls project goes into major cost over runs or the price of oil drops to $75 a barrel or some other unforeseen economic problem comes into play? What if the Government of Newfoundland defaults on Muskrat Falls? Well...the co-signer for the loan.. the Federal Government will be on the hook. The Feds can loan Newfoundland more money and take a bigger share of Muskrat or it can seize the assets and manage them or lease or SELL them to another party. Let's think about this...who would want to buy a near bankrupt hydro-electric project in Labrador? Any guesses? What if the Government of Canada, as the co-signer in place of the defaulting borrower, Newfoundland, decides to sell the Muskrat Falls hydro-electric project to Hydro Quebec or Nova Scotia Power? Does the loan guarantee agreement prevent the Government of Canada from doing that? Harper would never do that you say! But Harper may be gone and replaced by Trudeau or Mulcair....both from where? Oh yes..both Trudeau and Mulcair and most likely any future Prime Ministers of Canada, are or will be from QUEBEC! One mistake in the calculations and it is bye-bye Muskrat Falls hello Hydro-Quebec! The Muskrat deal, if it goes wrong, will be worse than the Upper Churchill deal ever was and will make Joey Smallwood look like a Harvard educated genius in comparison.

  • bAYMAN
    May 28, 2013 - 07:54

    Over 500 years of the Fishery and we still cannot get it right !. Me nerves.

  • Anonymous
    May 28, 2013 - 07:49

    "Dunderdale said her government doesn’t often get the credit it deserves for the work it’s doing, and that was especially clear on the loan guarantee." Oh I would say your government gets exactly the amount of credit it deserves Kathy. You want a pat on the back for not budging on something that is happening regardless. Nice job.

  • original townie
    May 28, 2013 - 07:34

    Would like to hear the Fed's side of this story. Why are we hearing this six months later? Why not back in Dec.? I can see Harper cowering when Dunderdale told him in no uncertain terms. And poor Nigel....ears still ringing. This woman ceases to amaze me. Hard to read her jibberish or watch her on TV. Pathetic. You gotta laugh! Sad thing is there is no alternative with Michael or Ball. Hard to beleive they fall below Dunderdale's level.

  • Gullible Tory
    May 28, 2013 - 07:34

    Oh Queen Kathy, I believe your version; slurp, gulp. But now, Pro-rouge Stevie will have another reason to beat down NL; now it's ABCD....Dunderdale is added to Dan's campaign, which will see NL suffer for generations.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    May 28, 2013 - 07:31

    At no time and in no way should minimum fish processing be up for discussion. What happened to the principle of maximum benefit for the people, adjacency, value added? There were 20 odd conditions that the feds attached to the Muskrat Falls loan guarantee term sheet. Is it a coincidence that Nalcor is only now going to the financial markets for loans for its Muskrat Falls project --- just a couple of weeks before an expected trade deal with the EU? What did we have to give up to get the go ahead on that loan guarantee?

  • Phil - E
    May 28, 2013 - 07:25

    Poor Kathy.....this is just a sad attempt to make yourself look better.....but it is too late for that..... self praise is better than no praise I guess.....

  • Fred
    May 28, 2013 - 07:17

    Good job Premier.

  • tom
    May 28, 2013 - 07:08

    If Harper wanted to play hard ball he would have. He didn't have to give a loan guarantee at all... what, to keep all the federal PC seats in the province?! Dunderdale trying to act all tough is a joke. I voted for this excuse for a premier so I am responsible for putting her in there, but I no longer believe even one word that comes out of her mouth. Trying to toot her own horn... too funny.

  • anon
    May 28, 2013 - 07:04

    So she's suddenly saying this now? Basically "I negotiated hard back then to not lose something. But just a head's up that we are about to lose it." How are we to believe she didn't negotiate it away then, but it won't be revealed until the Brussels talks? Doesn't sound believable considering she's suddenly talking about it now when it's about to be revealed.

  • Jack
    May 28, 2013 - 06:59

    Since the Harper Government wanted Newfoundland and Labrador to get rid of its commercial fishing regulations including minimum processing requirements, but won't get rid of supply management which forces Canadians to pay up to four times the American price for dairy, egg, and poultry products, a move that will hurt Quebec and Ontario, Stephen Harper obviously has a "double standard" against us which amounts to discrimination under Canadian law. In the case of supply management regime, due to prohibitive quotas, high costs of purchasing quota and preventing newcomers into the dairy or poultry industries, and other cartel like behaviour, Canadians pay more than four times the American price for a dozen eggs, three times the American price for poultry, and more than double the American price for milk, and yet, the Harper Government won't target supply management. Is Stephen Harper scared? Supply management even made the news recently for trying to target new farmers trying to make money, particularly the Aaron Hiltz case, referring to a recent story on "The Chronicle Herald" entitled "Hiltz’s hens cause financial flap" at At one time, Australia and New Zealand had similar supply management regimes, but got rid of it in order to reach free trade agreements with emerging markets such as China and Japan. As a result, New Zealand based dairy giant, Fonterra, is now one of the world's largest dairy companies, and turning this down-under country into an agricultural superpower. At the end of the day, to be fair to all provinces and not discriminate against a particular province and industries, such as Newfoundland and Labrador and their fishery, if they want to target us and our commercial fishing regulations, they have to do the same with the dreaded "supply management" regime which hurts our ability to reach lucrative "Free Trade Agreements" and make life hard for ordinary Canadians.

  • Jay
    May 28, 2013 - 06:55

    So she fought to keep something that's going to be given away anyway. And this was a win? She baffles me.

    • darby
      May 28, 2013 - 10:40

      this comes across as a 'look at me - I'm almost as good as Danny' attempt