European trade deal a ‘sellout’: fishery advocate

Josh Pennell
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Premier Kathy Dunderdale may think it won’t cost the province to partially eliminate minimum processing requirements on seafood, but some people much closer to the fishery disagree.  

The change to the minimum processing requirements comes as part of the Canada-Europe free trade deal. Canada will have unrestricted access to European markets with respect to fish products.

Tuesday, Dunderdale announ-ced a $400-million fisheries industry fund that’s part of the new free trade deal — $280 million of it will come from the federal government and the province will ante up the remaining $120 million.

Exactly what that money will be used for is unknown. A government news release was not specific, saying the funds would be used “to invest in research and development, new marketing initiatives, fisheries research and enhancements to provincial fisheries infrastructure.”

While the majority of the 100 people at the premier’s announcement on Tuesday seemed quite impressed with the deal — including FFAW president Earle McCurdy and seafood processors representative Derek Butler — the deal is hardly without its harsh critics.

Leo Seymour is a small-boat fisherman out of Harbour Round.

“I think that’s another nail in the coffin for rural Newfoundland,” Seymour told The Telegram on Wednesday.

Killing minimal processing will kill inshore fishermen like him, he added.

“If you’re doing away with the small processors, then who cares about Leo Seymour if he gets 500 pounds of mackerel or 1,000 pounds of mackerel? Who’s gonna come for that? Nobody.”

He’s not alone in his opinion. Fisheries advocate Gus Etchegary essentially called the deal smoke and mirrors.

“I think it’s one of the biggest sellouts that we’ve experienced since confederation,” he said.

Etchegary thinks the provincial government was told to come across the table with the elimination of the minimum processing in order to get the deal signed.

“Neither of the two ministers who were sitting with her, and certainly Kathy Dunderdale doesn’t have a clue about what the impact is of making unprocessed fish available to foreigners. She hasn’t got a clue.”

As far as the $280 million from the federal government is concerned, that’s just the sellout price, in his opinion.

“They have bribed this woman who sits as premier of Newfoundland,” Etchegary said.

Having an open market is fine, Etchegary said, but there’s a more basic problem with the resource that exists here in this province. There is no scientific capability left in the province, he said, something that’s essential for gaining information on managing, and in some cases rebuilding, a resource.

“Nobody has tired to rectify the basic problem, which is that we have a resource that’s been abandoned by the Department of Fisheries in Ottawa,” he said.

“Having it chopped and chopped and chopped since 1995, they come out now with $280 million. Why?”

Seymour didn’t have much to say about the money as there are so few details yet on what it will be used for. One term he said he doesn’t want to hear again, though, is “fisheries restructuring.”

“I’m after hearing that word ‘restructured’ that often it got me poisoned,” he said.

In his opinion, there shouldn’t be fewer fish plants in the province but more. Sending the product away isn’t going to do anything for fishermen like him.

Etchegary said the consequences of the deal will follow in the wake of its ratification expected in 2015.

“The impact of this is at least two years down the road. At that time, all those who were around that day shouting are gone. And the people who are going to suffer are still here or in Alberta.”

Organizations: The Telegram, Department of Fisheries

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Ottawa, Alberta

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Recent comments

  • What a blunder to have traded of our Fishery. Read the two CBC articles below in my commentary.
    November 02, 2013 - 09:50

    What a blunder for Newfoundland and Labrador to have given Canada the right to trade off what remains of our fishery to the European Union in the CETA Agreement. Read the two CBC articles one titled EU Boasts of huge gains in Canadian trade deal, the other titled CETA Canada EU Deal by numbers..

  • Jocko
    October 31, 2013 - 10:22

    Minimum processing requirements is just another way of saying Stamp factory. In a few years there won't be enough people left in rural NL to work in these plants. I'm willing to bet that you couldn't find 500 workers under the age of 50 in all the fish plants in NL. So who are you going to employ in these stamp factories that are only open for 8 weeks, 10 weeks, 12 weeks? With regard to Syemour's 1000 pounds of Mackerel? He's said recently that there were 10 fishermen left in his town out of hundred or so. What plant is going to survive on his and 10 other fisheman's catch? The day of that type of fishery is gone. If we don't move on and join the 21st century and compete in the global market then we are doomed to failure of recent years. That is the world we live in. Not the world of 1970's NL where every Tom, Dick and Harry was employed in the fishery for 10 weeks and drawing "unemployment insurance" for 42 weeks.

  • david
    October 31, 2013 - 09:54

    Here's all you need to know: with all the artificial political protection set up to subsidize and provide advantageous and artificially preferential access to the market, the Newfoundland fish processing industry has created the lumbering albatross of a failed make-work debacle that we have today. And standing up in defense of it makes anyone look like a complete and utter fool.

  • Ben
    October 31, 2013 - 09:30

    Yes we all should listen to Gus Etchegary...the guy who helped ruin the fishery back in the 70's. Someone should ask him about all those liners in the nets back in the day...wonder why our cod stocks disappeared?? Its a little too late for a conscience now Gus!

  • P F Murphy
    October 31, 2013 - 08:53

    Dunderdale is a sellout on every topic. All she needs to see is some money to give away somewhere in the process and she's on board. She gave away the oil money hand over fist and now she has $280 million from the feds to hand out in 2015. I guess that how she figures she'll win that election. It doesn't matter that there won't be any work in the outports and people will have to leave or to collect welfare to eat. I have to agree with Seymour and Etchegary that this CETA deal is another disastrous action by, I believe, a very self-interested and unintelligent Premier and her dishonourable buddy in Ottawa.

  • John Smith
    October 31, 2013 - 07:45

    time to shut the stamp factories down...

    • John Smith1
      October 31, 2013 - 10:04

      They wouldn't be stamp factories if the government didn't make them as such. The mismanagement of the fishery has led to this point all along. Secondary processing keeps going out the door with the government's blessing while we take stands on natural resources like the Nickel in Voisey's Bay. We tell plant workers they must accept an even smaller wage to keep processing jobs here while we our youth who used to think of the fishery as a viable opportunity sees it as nothing more than welfare anymore. The fishery while it may never be the industry it once was could be viable, but the processors or the union don't care about the workers or the fisherman just their own self interest as evidenced by the people there at this news conference. If we were to ship all of the resources of NL out of the province we wouldn't need to live here at all. Just mine and fish and deforest the whole place and move to Alberta. Maybe people saying the fishery should be abandoned should be looking at that option as well.

  • Premier Dunderdale if you sign off on CETA you will have given away completelythe Newfoundland and Labrador Shop!
    October 31, 2013 - 07:14

    Prime Minister Harper said at the beginning of his reign that we had a "culture of defeat" since we gave away our natural resources for others to thrive and now the Prime Minister is demanding that we do it again for the sake of Canada and the sake of his legacy. We are now giving away the shop and Premier Dunderdale will go down in history as the politician who will have made some of the biggest blunders, knowing full well of the economic blunders of the past. All of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador's natural resources that have been developed while we have been under Canada's rule have been developed solely so that Central Canada could develop a sound economy and an augmented population base. Everyone should know by now that the province was well endowed by nature with some of the best natural resources in the World such as Fish, Iron Ore, Nickel Ore, other minerals, Great Hydroelectric energy capacity, Oil, a Great Location and a Human Resource that when asked was willing to relocate to find work in Central Canada, I might add working from the avails of their own exported out "raw natural resources. They had to follow the tail of their exported "raw natural resources" to find work opportunities. We Newfoundlanders and Labradorians must speak up NOW or we will perish completely on the Canadian Economic Vine. When we don't have our voices heard in unison, we are a DEFEATIST people. With the signing off of CETA not only will we have the Canadian Wolf at our door we will also have the European Union wolf with an appetite for the fish resource, like no other country in the World.