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.