06 May 2009

How to tell when your position is wrong

When you are a political leader and your comments show you to be so far out of touch with the best interest of your province such that Stephen Harper looks sensible in comparison, then you know something is wrong.

Seriously wrong.

Like there’s a giant fireball in the sky above the place you’re heading and you can’t understand why all these cars are going the other way wrong.

Like you and a bunch of your drunken teenage friends go camping at Crystal Lake and you start making out with your girlfriend alone in a tent in the middle of the night and wonder where that machete came from sticking through the tent top wrong.

Topic:  the annual seal hunt, also known as March Madness (in this case in May) or as it has become, the platform by which every “C” list celebrity or celebrity wannabe seeks the public spotlight once again.

Issue:  The European Union voted to ban imports of seal products.

The Stephen Harper Comment: "If we were to make our trade relations with the European Union about only the sealing issue, we will never have any trading relations with the European Union because as we know this is a disagreement of long-standing," [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper said at a news conference.

The Danny Williams Comment:   "You know he's prepared to sacrifice Newfoundland and Labrador's interest in the interests of other issues for Canadians. And I think that's just dead wrong and it shows what this guy is all about," [Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams said].


According to the provincial government’s own fact sheet,  “the sealing industry is worth $55 million” to the provincial economy. That was a figure for 2006.

In that same year, Newfoundland and Labrador did more than 10 times as much business with Germany and the United Kingdom combined as the total value of the seal fishery.

In 2006, exporters from Newfoundland and Labrador sold a heckuva lot more than seal pelts to European Union countries.  At that value, they shipped a heckuva lot more to European countries than the seal products they may have shipped through them.

In 2008, Germany alone accounted for $1.02 billion of Newfoundland and Labrador’s exports. According to CBC, total Canadian seal exports to the EU last year amounted to a measly $5.5 million.  That’s all Canada, not just Newfoundland and Labrador.

Get the idea?

Now just think – for one teensy second – about the implication of Danny Williams’ comment.  Apparently, the only issue of any consequence here for Danny Williams is the seal hunt and 10 times as much trade between our province and Europe and the chance to sort out some of the grievances doesn’t matter one jot or tittle.

Lest you think this remark is out of context consider that the provincial government earlier this year turned down the chance to work with an international trade mission aimed at increasing trade with European countries.


Because of the seal hunt, among a couple of other issues which would have been better addressed at the table rather than far away from it .Actually, if you follow the links you’ll see another classic Williams administration constantly-shifting-position, but let’s just go with the “No seal hunt, no play” position.

If there’s logic in the provincial government’s argument – as enunciated by Danny Williams  - it sure isn’t obvious. Apparently, the economic benefit to the provincial economy of increased trade with the Europeans isn’t something the provincial ministry could be bothered with. 

At this point, it’s hard to see how the provincial government is protecting provincial interests by launching into another tirade with anyone over seals when seals are only a tiny fraction of the overall provincial economic picture involved.

But seriously:

How can you tell your political position is crap?

When Stephen Harper sounds reasonable in comparison.


Updated – added sentences giving value  of seal exports to EU last year, according to CBC story.


Steve said...

As for your comments regarding the Premier, I can't say that I am in agreement with you. We have always gotten the crappy end of the stick from our mainland brethren and sistren. We are perceived as whiners always with our hands out to Uncle Ottawa; yup we are the only province in the country begging. That will never change. The seal hunt is not on Harper's radar; never has been nor would it be, even if DW weren't premier. No question as to the relevance of a trade deal with the EU and the seal hunt. We are not in the same ballpark when it comes to economic benefits to the country. However, it will be interesting to watch Mr. Harper for concessions using the well managed fishery. Don't hear much from our boneheads in the Nation's Capital looking for custodial management for our fishery. They just sit on their hands and draw big pay cheques. I just find it all nauseating. If this were a Que or Ont. issue there would be an uproar especially if it meant votes. We are insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Edward G. Hollett said...


Let's leave aside the fact that you started out with the sheer bullshit - and that's all it is was, and ever will be - about the crappy end of the stick.

Let's just start with the fact that you miss the point entirely: the Premier and his administration cannot accomplish a single thing to advance the issues they claim to be so concerned about by refusing to participate in the trade negotiations.

I couldn't care less if the seal hunt is on the Prime Minister's (any prime minister's radar).

If the seal hunt, and shrimp tarriffs and custodial management are on the Premier's agenda - as he claims - he can accomplish nothing on this issues by sitting in St. John's and engaging in weak-assed posturing for the cameras.

Nothing a thing.

To make matters worse he is - by his own construction - prepared to avoid a golden opportunity to advance whatever provincial trade issues there are in favour of, essentially, doing nothing but thump his chest.

On top of that he has effectively held hostage potential trade growth worth more than 10 times the value of the seal fishery by any measure at all and he has done so for no discernable gain for the province as a whole.

And here's the kicker: if this were Ontario or Quebec, the Premiers of those provinces would be pushing their own trade agendas (as they are in this case) and the public would be flaying alive the provincial politicians who stood by and did a scrum rather than do the diplomatic work needed in Ottawa and overseas to advance the interests of the province.

That's the gigantic difference between here and there.

Here, people - presumably like you - actually applaud a government that, by any measure, simply neglects such an important issue as growing trade and the means to advance their cause and then sets up to blame others for their own neglect of their own interests.

Steve said...

Well Mr. Hollett, I thank you for your kind words but your perception of my opinion as bullshit is just that, your opinion. I like to think my bullshit is as worthy as yours. I am not prepared to nitpick over such foolishness. For the record I am not a Danny fan, but it is persons like you that don't care whether the seal hunt is on the radar or not that has this take what's handed us bullshit attitude and be god damned grateful for it. How will Nfld. benefit from free trade with the EU? More nickel out of Voisey's bay? more iron ore out of Lab. west? How about the only resource that really meant anything but was shut down in 1992, thanks to the management of the wonderful feds including your liberals. And no I didn't miss the point.

Anonymous said...

Steve raises a legitimate question - but it applies equally to provinces other than ours. How does any province benefit from a "free" trade deal between Canada and the EU? How does a national government weigh the financial impacts of some provinces with the potential interests of others? This is not a question of Newfoundland getting singled out for the "shaft" from "mainlanders" upalong. Sealers on the Maggies, the Lower North Shore and PEI are equally affected. It would be a far more constructive debate if we'd all drop the chips from our shoulders and the victim mentality that empowers our provincial politicans.
As for Harper - what kind of an amateur operation do you run if you find out about the timing of the EU ban on the day yuo're in Europe to launch trade talks? That's an indication of the calibre of his political staff.

Mark said...

How will Nfld. benefit from free trade with the EU?

Ask anyone trying to sell our shrimp.

Steve said...

Well Mark,bye, there is no problem selling our shrimp. Just ask the Norwegians.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Free trade opens up new market opportunities for all our products, not just resources.

If you take a second and follow the link to the trade stats you will see just exactly how much of our economy is based on trade outside of Canada.

Right now the United States is the major partner, but Germany is second. Free trade with the EU allows us to diversify our markets, potentially expand our product base and decrease our dependence on the United States.

Since we are the closest bit of North America to Europe we should be looking for angles to exploit that competitive advantage as trade flows both ways. That's essentially what happened in the 1980s with the US. We took advantage and continue to take advantage.

Federal governments don't sit around apportioning international trade to one province or the other. They certainly do have to be aware of the relative impact - good and bad - of changing the international trade rules and it is up to provincial governments to look after provincial issues.

They need to work hard to advance arguments publicly and privately (that's what they get paid to do) but staying away from the table when so much is at stake seems to be to be both incomprehensible and indefensible.

And to both Steve and Anonymous you guys should be aware (in case you aren't) that the impetus for these talks didn't come from Harper. It came from Jean Charest and other premiers. The seal hunt ban is a completely non-issue as far as timing goes. If it wasn't that it might be something else, but if one thinks $55 million trumps $1.5 billion, one would never do anything with trade talks in the first place.

We do need to get rid of the victim mentality, Anonymous 22:59. Absolutely.

And Steve, we need to shed what amounts to sheer bullshit, like blaming the feds for the collapse of the codstocks in 1992.

There's more than enough blame to go around. There were no trade offs of fish for cars. Not a single example has ever come forward. It's a bullshit excuse, oddly enough pushed by some of the people who - running local fish companies - helped to overfish the stocks and decimate them.

That's not bullshit; that's a matter of fact. Go check it out.

My opinions are not plucked out of the sky and made up. I try to ground them in facts and show where I got the idea from.

When someone tells me about cars for fish deals I go looking. if I find evidence to back it up, then fine. But when I can't find any evidence to back it up, I know I have someone pushing bullshit.

By contrast when I tell you that Germany is our second largest international trading partner (slightly over a $1 billion in exports to Germany in 2008) and that the seal fishery was worth $55 million in 2006, you can go check the facts.

As a last point, Steve, if you think I am all for taking things handed to me cap in hand, you really did miss my point totally and completely.

Mark said...

Steve - Why would I ask the Norwegians?

Norway isn't even part of the European Union.

Keep typing.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Steve (and others), maybe try thinking about it this way:

Danny Williams says that Stephen Harper can't be trusted to do the right thing for NL about the seal hunt, custodial management and the shrimp tariff.

Danny Williams' answer is to make sure Stephen Harper is the ONLY ONE at the trade talks.

If the stuff is that important, does it make any sense for Williams to make sure Steve has total control?

Steve said...

Mark, bye, don't recall saying Norway was part of EU. Just said they have no problems selling the shrimp. Check your stats.

Well, E.G., I have to state again I did not miss your point but I certainly can see you missed mine. You mention Germany being the second biggest trade partner-great. But my question to you was: how will a new free trade agreement with the EU benefit Nf?
What do we have in the way of raw materials that the rest of the world wants, a few shrimp,nickel, iron ore? Our greatest asset was lost in 1992. You again stated it was sheer bullshit to blame the feds for the collapse of the fishery. Nf has to absorb some of the blame but I ask again, who managed/s the fishery? I did not mention anything of trade offs for the car, wheat etc. industries so how you arrived at that conclusion I don't know. What I did mention was to follow the negotiations to see if Mr. Harper would make any concessions to the EU to sign a trade deal. Now, because I do not conform to your way of thinking, does not make my comments sheer bullshit. You are correct when you mention the overall picture for the country and Nf's piddly $55M from the seal industry compared to the billions.

Mark said...

As I said, keep typing.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Steve, if you genuinely believe that everything around here stopped in 1992 with the cod moratorium (you keep saying things like "our greatest asset"), then I don't what anyone could tell you to help you see the economy is currently built around so much more than just fish.

Steve said...

Up until our money from the oil, which has diminished greatly with the lower prices, what did we have that was so economically flashy that continued to have us the poorest most in debt province(per ca pita) in the country? And you continue to miss my point.

Nice try Mark. Shows how much you know.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Steve, I think I get your point very well and it gets even plainer when you ask a question like that one.

Our economy for the past 50 years or so has been driven by the fishery, forestry and mining, with oil added in lately. There is a small manufacturing sector, the tourism business and some agricultural production.

There might be others I am forgetting but the biggies were fish, trees and rocks. NL hasn't been solely dependent on the fishery as the entire economy for over a hundred years.

The debt you refer to came from one source: the provincial government. They spent more money than they had coming in.

After all that, if I am missing your point, please explain exactly what it is.

Mark said...

Steve - have you asked anyone about the shrimp yet? I mean, aside from the Norwegians.

Hint - when you're done with your map, get a dictionary and look up the word "tariff".

Steve said...

Keep trying Mark, you'll get right eventually.

Steve said...

Mr. Hollett, I am way too old to change my opinions. I do have opinions on the agriculture?, and forestry. But, like I said I am far too old to debate with somebody as well versed as yourself.

Edward G. Hollett said...

I take it Steve that in both your answer to me and to Mark, your point is that you can't be bothered with the facts.

Steve said...

Well Mr. Hollett, there you go with your bullshit. I did not mention anything about not being bothered with facts. I am too old and set in my ways to really change my opinion on a lot of things, facts or not. You talk facts by mentioning agriculture, and forestry. We cannot produce enough root vegetables to sustain the province thru the winter, so we should do well with that when a deal is signed with the EU. We have to import the garbage from the mainland or the good ole USofA. And our forestry, yes that is a real boon or boom; we import lumber from places like Nb. When we had the three paper mills running wasn't product imported from the maritimes? Ah, but when the recession is done AB will be back in GFW mass producing the newsprint like it did for 100yrs. Now the fishery, it wasn't too long ago there was a crisis with the shrimp but those wonderful managers in Ottawa passed small quotas along to PEI. As for the facts, I do not have the time to sit around all day reading, online the newspapers, blogs,search through govt. websites looking for facts to support the cause and very charismatically agree with one another. And from reading your blog most of your time is taken up with attacks on the ProvincialGovt.,negativity,negativity,negativity. One doesn't read many,if any, positive items from your blog,regarding DW and his cohorts, facts or not.-- No, I am not a Danny fan. As for the Marks of the world,he's just another smart ass who has all the answers. Nope, never said I did. What will your objective be when the Liberals form the government? Defence? They will get elected eventually federally before provincially.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Steve wrote: "I am too old and set in my ways to really change my opinion on a lot of things, facts or not."

Like I said, Steve, your point is that you can't be bothered with the facts.

Steve said...

And Mr.Hollett you are full of crap who avoids anything that is not in agreement with your thinking or FACTS. Like the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries. One doesn't need a whole lot of facts or research to support that. Now go find me all the facts to support your argument about how much they contribute to the provincial economy, when we import produce, lumber etc.

Edward G. Hollett said...


At this point, Mark obviously had it right - keep typing and ranting, but there's just no point in trying to carry on a discussion, as you've made it clear several times already.

Steve said...

Yup, Mr. Hollett, I too had it right. When you people are challenged it becomes a no point scenario. I have asked you to defend your promotion of the agriculture, forestry,again especially when we import produce and lumber. Fishery, okay, I'll concede, to a degree. And you are absolutely right there is no sense in a discussion when you are convinced you have it right with all your facts.

Edward G. Hollett said...


There's nothing to defend because it is a matter of fact that we export wood products, primarily paper. We import a bunch of other wood products. We could be exporting more wood products if someone bothered to develop them.

You seem to think somethign else but you don't bother to explain what you mean.

We have an agricultural industry that right now, for example, isn't producing all the milk products it could be producing even though it has the quota. We need to look at that and ask why.

That is some of what is. This is trade deal with Europe is also about groth and having more.

But look, that's what places do when they have an economy. They import stuff and they export stuff. Pretty well any place on the planet imports and exports, even the same thing. Canada as a whole imports wood products and exports wood products. look around the world and you see the same thing.

Big deal if we export products and then still bring in lumber. There are plenty of lumber products that aren't made here. They could be made here and maybe exported to Europe if someone wanted to try that.

But what are you driving at, Steve?

You say you "concede" on fishery "to a degree". Concede what? And why only to a degree?

You haven't said anything beyond the idea that the only thing that mattered was destroyed in 1992.

The fishery is more than cod. it could have been more than cod before 1992 but that's another issue. Since 1992, we've seen a growth in exports of other species.

So what the heck are you "conceding"?

And for the love of cripes what the heck is your point Steve?

Anonymous said...


I have to agree with Ed, what in the name of god are you saying. I got lost trying to follow all the run on sentences coupled with erratic arguements. The only thing I gathered was that you are old and set in your ways and facts do not matter to you. If that is the case than you should probably stop reading blogs, watching the news or reading newpapers because you may find some facts in these places. Otherwise break out the VHS tapes and watch "Newfoundland Outdoors" from twenty years ago where the only fact I can remember was that Brice could cook a mean pan fried trout.

Anonymous said...

"Like you and a bunch of your drunken teenage friends go camping at Crystal Lake and you start making out with your girlfriend alone in a tent in the middle of the night and wonder where that machete came from sticking through the tent top wrong."

Shear genius ED.

An EU Can free trade deal, offers Canada the unique position of in such deals with the EU and the US while they don't have deals with each other, the potential advantages are massive. We should be at the table no ifs ands or buts.


Edward G. Hollett said...

It is amazing we aren't at the table.

It's even more amazing not a single person in the province - aside from me - is even wondering what the heck is going on.