11 March 2009

Dysfunction and disconnect

How many times does a government get to do and say completely contradictory or unfounded things before people wonder about the competence of the people involved?

1.  "The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is unable to support this at this time on the basis of very genuine concerns that our province’s issues [shrimp tariff, seal hunt, custodial management] may not be safeguarded or dealt with in an appropriate way by the Federal Government."  Government of Newfoundland and Labrador news release, February 20, 2009.

2.   “It is clear that the efforts of our government, in collaboration with those of the Government of Canada and industry, are indeed paying off,” continued Minister Rideout.”  Major progress made on European Union shrimp tariff, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador news release, July 11, 2007.

3.   "That's how things have worked for us over the years, and we've got shafted as a result of it," he said, claiming that Newfoundland fish stocks have been traded off by the feds. Danny Williams, comments to reporters, quoted in “Williams ponders own deal with EU”, The Telegram, March 7, 2009. [Not on line] This is a commonly held belief of some people in the province but there is no evidence to that such trades ever occurred.

4. "We strongly endorse your commitment for bilateral agreements and look forward to working with the federal government to achieve a bilateral agreement with the EU." Innovation minister Trevor Taylor,  August 11, 2008, letter to then federal international trade minister Michael Fortier, quoted in “Province backed trade talks: 2008 letter”, The Telegram, March 10, 2009.

5.  “If that means that there's an agreement between Canada and 12 jurisdictions, and there has to be a separate agreement negotiated with Newfoundland and Labrador, then I'm fine with that." Williams, quoted in The Telegram, March 7, 2009.

Williams reportedly conveyed his concerns to Quebec premier jean Charest in the latter’s capacity as chairman of the council of provincial premiers.  Charest has been one of the driers of the EU trade deal since he first proposed it after the annual economic conference in Davos, 2007.

6.  "The EU doesn't negotiate trade agreements with provinces or federations," MUN's Steven Wolinetz said. “Prof puzzled by premier’s call for own EU trade deal”, The Telegram, March 9, 2009.

7.   "I do understand from behind the scenes that this is actually causing some very, very serious concerns from people in the EU," Williams said. quoted in The Telegram, March 7, 2009.

8.  “It would have been ideal if all provinces had joined” in Friday’s pro-trade declaration, [EU official] Jan Sliva said in a statement. “But in our view those provinces and territories that did join represent the majority of Canada’s trade and investment potential.” quoted in “N.L. won’t stop Canada-Europe trade talks: EU”, CanWest, March 10, 2009.

Given all that, it would seem logical to conclude that the provincial government actually isn’t interested in resolving its three big issues.  After all, they cannot be resolved if the provincial government refuses to address them or has no means to address them given its refusal to work on an obvious mechanism to resolve them.

And hey, it’s not like Newfoundland and Labrador doesn’t have a significant interest in expanded trade with the European Union.  After the United States, the EU is Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest foreign trade partner.