Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale says Ottawa has been trying to cut side deals with other provinces to build support for trade talks with the European Union, while excluding her province's demands from the final terms of the deal.
Dunderdale said federal officials, including Trade Minister Ed Fast, have been talking with other provinces to build broad support for the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, also known as CETA, with the European Union.
"Certainly no one is coming to Newfoundland and Labrador and talking about anybody's else's position," said Dunderdale Thursday in Grand-Falls Windsor.
"And that's not acceptable, when people are wheeling and dealing. And talking about what they would accept and what they wouldn't accept. And we're excluded from that conversation."
N.L. and Ottawa at odds over fish processing requirements
On Monday, in a speech to the St. John's Board of Trade, Dunderdale said the Muskrat Falls loan guarantee nearly fell apart when Ottawa suddenly demanded the province give up the requirement that fish landed in Newfoundland and Labrador be processed there.
Dunderdale said Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his staff have raised the issue many times, repeatedly urging her to scrap minimum fish processing requirements because the Europeans are demanding it as a term of CETA.
Rudy Husny, a spokesman for the trade minister, responded in an email Thursday afternoon that "Canadian and EU negotiators are continuing to actively explore solutions to the remaining issues."
"We are committed to achieving an outcome that is in the best interests of Canadians, and opens up new opportunities for Canada’s exporters."
Husny continued, "Our government has worked hand-in-hand with the provinces and territories since the very beginning of negotiations."
"Provinces and territories are consulted regularly, and continue to be involved with our negotiating team, in areas that fall wholly or partially under their jurisdiction."
N.L. not a lead negotiator
Newfoundland and Labrador has not been a lead negotiator in the talks, but it does have a delegation in Brussels, where the talks have been taking place.
Dunderdale said the delegation will stay at the table for now in hope that the province's interests can be protected.
But at this point she has very little confidence that will happen.
"I mean, it questions the whole integrity of the process," said Dunderdale.
Dunderdale received a letter from Fast late on Thursday afternoon, which she said she would study to help her determine the province's future involvement in the trade talks.