Last month two members of the Fisheries Community Alliance were witnesses before the Federal Standing Committee on Trade in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the following day met with the three NL negotiators who were present at the CETA negotiations in Europe.
At the Halifax meeting, myself and Winston Fiander of the Alliance made the usual 10-minute presentations followed by a question and answer session. In his presentation, Winston expressed our concerns some of the policies and programs, such as Owner Operator and Fleet Separation Policies, that support community based inshore and midshore fisheries, may be challenged by European interests under CETA.
Both presentations were focused on the impact of removing MPRs on processing jobs.
During that process and a reception, we had the opportunity to question the Chairman and members of the committee on details contained in CETA. In addition to Mr. Fiander and myself, who were the only persons from this province, approximately 14 other witnesses from the Maritimes requested details of CETA that were not forthcoming.
There is no doubt the Chair and the committee were unaware of any details and in fact neither the Chairman nor any member were aware of the $280 million to be made available to compensate for the loss of jobs in the industry as a result of CETA implementation.
When Mr. Fiander, who retired after 25 years with the federal government, asked what Federal Treasury officials were told the $280 million would be used for, he was then asked “Where did you get that information?”
He went on to state the Committee was unaware of the amount or its purpose. We were not much wiser about CETA details following the Halifax meeting.
Following our appearance before the Standing Committee in Halifax we met with the three NL negotiators who had been present at the CETA negotiations in Europe. We met at Confederation Building for over two hours and had an in depth discussion on CETA, its implications for the future of the NL fishing communities and the impact on removal of Minimum Processing Requirements.
Our conclusions following both meetings are disturbing. We are concerned the impact of CETA on processing jobs, the viability of inshore/mid-shore fish harvesters and the export of unprocessed fish to the resource short processing plants in EU countries has not be thoroughly or properly assessed.
We are convinced CETA could significantly change the jobs currently generated by the harvesting and processing sectors and this will have a huge impact on our coastal communities. Furthermore, any hope of the groundfish resource recovering after a 21-year moratorium will be negatively impacted by a growing and uncontrolled Factory Freezer Trawler sector.
The $280 million compensation for job loss and negative impact on the industry will be comparable to the size of a flea on the rump of an elephant. You may or may not be aware in anticipation on CETA ratification the EU fishing nations are elated at the prospect of substantial quantities of unprocessed fish becoming available from NL.
So if anyone is under the illusion EU fish processing companies will not take advantage of opportunities made available through CETA they had better be brought up to date in the real world.
There is no doubt Free Trade will benefit the Canadian economy in some areas. Removal of tariffs is important but it should not be at the expense of the non-survival of most of the existing NL fishing communities.
Surely, in a major Free Trade agreement, such as CETA, involving negotiations affecting industry from BC to NL it should not have included concessions to destroy the fishery of NL that had elevated Canada from 14th to 6th place as a fish exporting nation when we joined Confederation.
Does it not appear to be highly suspicious Mr. Harper would state to the Premier the ‘removal of Minimum Processing Requirements’ was a high priority with the EU? It was so glaring during our appearance before the Standing Committee one of the members asked us if Mr. Harper’s statement was somehow related to a tradeoff regarding Muskrat Falls?
Neither Winston nor I commented.
Gus Etchegary, Chair
Fisheries Community Alliance