Sections

Letter: Liberals’ passivity a detriment to our fishery

Published on March 25, 2017

The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) was approved with Premier Dwight Ball and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in office.

So, what was negotiated to transition our fishing industry to a more competitive, technologically advanced, scientific and market-driven industry? Apparently, according to Premier Ball, nothing!

An area of provincial jurisdiction was relinquished to Ottawa to use in their negotiations with the EU, with only silence from the Ball Liberals for the past 15 months, despite a signed letter from Trudeau promising that this province would be given a $400-million fisheries investment fund as a condition of giving up minimum processing requirements (MPRs). There was no mention of an “Atlantic” fisheries fund in his letter.

In 2014, Trudeau wrote: “your government’s support of the CETA was earned, in part, by a promise from the Government of Canada to help the industry adjust to the new reality. That promise should be honoured.” He referred specifically to the $400-million fund for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Premier Ball was not able to deliver on that written commitment.

I was the provincial trade minister who helped negotiate the agreement with former federal trade minister Ed Fast to secure a fisheries investment fund as a condition of relinquishing MPRs, so we could use the fund to transition the industry to take full advantage of the huge EU market.

Interestingly, no other Atlantic province has MPRs, so they would not have made it an issue in their bilateral negotiations with Ottawa during CETA negotiations.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s leverage was: if the fund was not finalized, we would not give up MPRs.

We would not give them up without a $400 million fisheries investment fund to strengthen the industry — a fund with five pillars: marketing opportunities; fishery science; research and development; infrastructure; and workplace adjustments.

Ottawa did not sign any agreement with either province to relinquish areas of provincial jurisdiction during federal-provincial negotiations.

We had to use our right to impose MPRs as leverage. By not relinquishing them, we would be obligating Canada to move forward with CETA with an understanding that they would, in the future, be sitting at a trade resolution board to address not meeting the requirements of an international trade agreement.

 If Premier Ball and his government did not believe a deal existed for a fisheries fund, why would he not take the lead, as the province of Belgium did, in the lead-up to the ratification of CETA?

In Belgium, they said: respect our rights, or no deal. They were successful. Premier Ball was not, because he refused to stand up for his province.

If he really believed there was no federal promise of a $400-million fisheries investment fund for our province, despite Trudeau’s signed letter, then why didn’t he negotiate an agreement of his own? Why didn’t he say “no fund, no deal”? 

On March 10, the federal Fisheries minister announced a $325-million investment fund for all of Atlantic Canada, including the three Maritime provinces that do not have MPRs.

Minister Judy Foote told our province there would be no CETA fisheries investment fund for us, and no compensation for MPRs. The fisheries fund was dead!

We should always get a share of funding envelopes for the things Ottawa normally funds for Atlantic Canadians — things like search and rescue, surveillance, small craft harbours, Department of Fisheries and Oceans spending. These have nothing to do with CETA. They are supports we receive as Canadians.

Why did Ball settle for this — a share of normal DFO investments in Atlantic Canada — instead of the $400 million in new money for the fisheries investment fund that Newfoundland and Labrador alone was promised as a condition of giving up the MPRs that we alone had in place?

Under the current Liberal governments, Newfoundland and Labrador is being taken for granted.

Liberals are putting party first and province second, and that has cost us $400 million in investments in our fishing industry, needed to improve our marketing opportunities; fishery science; research and development; infrastructure; and workplace adjustments. 

Let’s not be taken for granted. It’s not acceptable!

Keith Hutchings, MHA Ferryland
Official Opposition critic for Intergovernmental Affairs