Fisheries tariff talk is a red herring

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Kathy Dunderdale’s recent bombshell revelation regarding the bullish behaviour of Stephen Harper (through his rich buddy and now disgraced chief of staff, Nigel Wright) during the loan guarantee negotiations for Muskrat Falls is problematic on so many fronts.

Her surprise disclosure prompts me to wonder why the sudden and uncharacteristic bout of “openness and transparency.”

I strongly suspect that this whole affair has nothing to do with any such high ideals but rather with crass political motivations.

Early warning

One such possible motive is to soften the blow on another giveaway of our constitutional power to control the processing sector in our fishery.

According to Fisheries Minister Derrick Dalley, “the end goal of (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) negotiations for the province is a zero tariff allowing for immediate market access.”

This is intentionally misleading and a false justification for another give-away.  

No grounds

According to a study released in January 2013 by Scott Sinclair of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, access to European markets is not an issue and, “with some exceptions, tariffs on Canadian fish exports are modest and are expected to fall in countries that depend heavily on fish imports to satisfy rising consumer demand.” His study was entitled “Globalization, Trade Treaties and the Future of Atlantic Canada Fisheries.”

Incidentally, if lowering tariffs was really a bona fide issue, then why didn’t our premier approach her new friend, Stephen Harper, to negotiate a tariff-only agreement similar to the one signed in 2009 with the European Free Trade Association?

This concession would be the mother ship to the recent OCI deal.

Local benefits

I believe it is an imperative that we protect and maintain our constitutional right to regulate and control the fishery processing sector for the absolute maximum benefit for our people and our communities, particularly our coastal communities, and not for the maximization of profits for local or European companies.

Ken Kavanagh is chairman of the St. John’s Chapter of the Council of Canadians

Organizations: Canadian Centre, Future of Atlantic Canada Fisheries, European Free Trade Association OCI

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Recent comments

  • enough yet?
    May 31, 2013 - 19:48

    is this the same Cathy Dunderdale who along with other government members stood shoulder to shoulder with "KING" steve in the last Federal election?

  • Corporate Psycho
    May 31, 2013 - 17:07

    Well said.

  • FINTIP
    May 31, 2013 - 08:15

    The National Post is reporting that Harper wants to sign the CETA during his upcoming trip to Europe, but that it might not be possible because of this province's refusal to abandon its minimum processing requirements. It further reports that the Prime Minister's Office is exploring ways it can damage Newfoundland and Labrador financially in retaliation for the province's refusal to knuckle under. Whether that threat has been conveyed directly to the provincial government or not is unknown - something the media and opposition parties should be asking right now. But the PMO may have opted for the less direct approach, in all probability leaking the info to the Harper-friendly National Post in hopes that the province would get the message while at the same time allowing ministers to deny the threat when it is raised in the House of Commons. ...... I think the realization has begun to dawn on a majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in recent months that Ms. Dunderdale - however well intentioned - does not have the skills, the experience or the temperament to handle complex issues of this nature. There is also the reality that her premiership, thus far, has been preoccupied with one matter (Muskrat Falls) to the near exclusion of all others, and that she has made a conscious decision not only to forego public consultation but indeed to block public access to the information needed for informed public debate. For these reasons, it is difficult to comment on the specific implications of CETA for this province. As for Dunderdale's revelations regarding the PMO's attempt to tie CETA with the Muskrat loan guarantee, my earlier comments largely accord with Mr. Kavanagh's - i.e. that this was a red herring designed to prop up her sagging popularity at same time pre-emptively putting the blame on Ottawa should she decide to capitulate at the last minute. Minimum processing might be the sticking point right now, and the reason the PMO has resorted once again to thuggery, but it is hardly the only CETA provision that should concern the residents of this province. For example, it could mean significant increases in drug costs and eliminate Newfoundland-first hiring and procurement policies in the offshore petroleum sector. Mr. Kavanagh worries about Ms. Dunderdale's willingness to relinquish our constitutional right to control processing in the fishery. While he is absolutely right in that regard, Harper and Dunderdale must nevertheless understand that any passage of enabling legislation for CETA in this province is just that - legislation. It will be up to Ms. Dunderdale's successors to decide whether to repeal that legislation, notwithstanding that the federal government would do its best to block such a move. As we all know, any formal amendment of the constitution is a far more complicated process - which, from Newfoundland's point of view and notwithstanding the fact that our own terms of union are deeply flawed, is probably the only thing that protects us from an even greater level of abuse by Ottawa.