Liberal leadership candidate Jim Bennett said he absolutely didn’t mean to compare a Canada-Europe free trade deal to the Holocaust.
© — Telegram file photo
In a news release sent out Friday after the trade deal was announced, Bennett said the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will kill the fishery.
“The Tory Government has badly neglected the fisheries for over a decade and this is their Final Solution for this iconic industry,” Bennett said in the release.
The term “Final Solution” is closely associated with the Holocaust; in the context of the Second World War, the Final Solution was the Nazis’ term for the plan to annihilate the Jewish people. In a Google search for the term “Final Solution,” all of the top results are related to the Holocaust.
Speaking to The Telegram Monday, Bennett said he had no idea about any of this.
“You would have to take me for being much better read than I am to assume that I would know that,” he said.
Bennett said he absolutely would not compare CETA to the Holocaust, or even to a lesser genocide, although he said he does believe the economic deal will mean cultural annihilation for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
But to compare CETA to the Holocaust, he said, would be going too far.
“If I were to say something like that, then it would be tantamount to accusing Stephen Harper of cultural genocide, and he doesn’t like our rural communities. He wants to be rid of them,” Bennett said. “I don’t think I did that. I think that’s what he’s doing, but I don’t think it really compares to the Holocaust.”
The CETA deal will eliminate tariffs and regulations to make it easier for companies to export Newfoundland and Labrador seafood into the European Union. Also as part of the deal, Premier Kathy Dunderdale has agreed to waive all minimum processing requirements on Newfoundland and Labrador seafood destined for Europe.
Minimum processing requirements remain in place when it comes to the U.S. and Asia.
Bennett said by partially removing the minimum processing requirements on seafood, the government is dooming rural fish plants.
“It’s not only the Dunderdale government. In part, it’s the Harper government,” Bennett said. “They’ve staggered around from one catastrophe to another. They don’t know what to do with the fishery.”
He said he used the term Final Solution simply because he believes this is the only thing Dunderdale and Harper will need to do in order to eliminate the fish plant sector.
“I can’t say that CETA is a genocide,” Bennett said. “What I can say is that the government of Newfoundland and Labrador has sacrificed the opportunity of residents in our small communities to earn a living, and that will drive them out of their towns, and that will hasten the destruction of a culture.”