Dunderdale sends proposal to Ottawa on CETA talks
N.L. Premier says 'There's movement on both sides" in talks with Ottawa
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale has sent off another letter to federal officials about talks with Europe on the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement.
Federal Trade Minister Ed Fast got in touch with Dunderdale on Thursday evening after comments from the premier where she accused Ottawa of trying to cut side deals with other provinces.
"We responded last night to that, there's movement on both sides," said Dunderdale, who was in Grand Falls-Windsor on Friday.
Dunderdale also accused federal officials of sharing confidential information from her government during the talks.
Today, Dunderdale admitted that improvements to search and rescue services have been a negotiating point with Ottawa, but she said she was unable to reveal any details.
"Just let me say it wasn't the federal government that put SAR on the table," said Dunderdale.
On Monday, Dunderdale said Ottawa was pressuring her to drop local fish processing rules to help get a trade deal with Europe.
A spokesperson for International Trade Minister Ed Fast said federal officials have worked with all provinces and territories since the talks began. The province has not been a lead negotiator in the talks, but it does have a delegation in Brussels, where the talks have been taking place.
Although Dunderdale has been upset with the federal government's negotiating tactics, she said she is not ready for her delegation to walk away from the table yet.
"We're open to getting the best deal we can get for the people of the province," said Dunderdale. "And while there's a chance that that's going to happen, we're going to stay there."
Opposition questions timing
Meanwhile, the provincial opposition parties want to know why Dunderdale is only speaking out now about tensions in the trade talks, which have been taking place for several years.
Both Liberal fisheries and business critic Jim Bennett and NDP leader Lorraine Michael said Dunderdale has stayed too silent for too long.
Michael said she believes the province hasn't had strong representation during these trade talks.
"She's just trying to make it seem to us that the province is in there and really speaking for the people of the province," said Michael. "And my question is, you know, well give us the proof. Tell us what it is you're really discussing there."
Bennett said he wonders if Dunderdale has been trying to regain some political popularity.
"I think it's a desperate attempt by the premier who's really in trouble in the public opinion polls in the province," said Bennett.
"It's like a last straw. The problem is that she's doing it so late in the day, and with such vehemence, that you'd have to wonder why hasn't she been in this game before?"
Dunderdale said she expected another response from Fast at some time on Friday.