Nfld. & Labrador

CETA $400M fisheries fund spat fuels leaders' debate

Premier Paul Davis, Liberal Leader Dwight Ball and NDP Leader Earle McCurdy squared off on the province's fisheries agreement in the CETA Tuesday night.
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball, NDP Leader Earle McCurdy and Premier Paul Davis held a debate in Gander Tuesday night. (CBC)

PC Leader Paul Davis, Liberal Leader Dwight Ball and NDP Leader Earle McCurdy squared off on the province's fisheries agreement in the Canadian European Union Comprehensive Trade Agreement (CETA) Tuesday night.

The federal leaders were in Gander Tuesday to take part in a debate hosted by the area chamber of commerce.

Davis said it was clear to him and most people who read the documents — with the exception of Ball — that there was an agreement reached with Ottawa on a $400-million fisheries fund.

The federal government said the province must show demonstrable losses in order to qualify for any of the fund, with the province arguing that was never part of the deal.

Premier Paul Davis says if Dwight Ball is elected premier, he won't hold Justin Trudeau's Liberal government accountable. (CBC)

Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau sent a letter to Davis in December, stating his support in the province's side of the argument.

"What's going to happen if he decides to say, 'Well, I've looked at the books now and now I'm inside … looking at the books, you know what? I can't do this.' Who's going to hold the federal government to the fire?" said Davis.

"Is it going to be the premier who loves Mr. Trudeau, as [Ball] has said so many times, or the premier that's going to represent Newfoundlanders and Labradorians first?"

However, Ball said there is a lack of openness when it comes to what was actually signed and agreed on in the fisheries deal.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball says there should be a signed document in the fisheries deal related to CETA that outlines Ottawa's promise for the $400-million fund. (CBC)

"If this was a deal there were be a remedy condition in that deal that you would have been able to address this current situation that you're in to. And Premier Davis, you know that remedy was not in that deal, you know that signature was not there," said Ball.

"I guarantee you, if elected by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, I don't care who the prime minister is, I will fight for what's right for Newfoundland and Labrador."

Meanwhile, McCurdy said he assumed the federal government would live up to its promise — and if not, there would need to be a premier willing to fight.

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy says the province needs a premier that will hold Justin Trudeau accountable for his election promises. (CBC)

"I think it's important to have someone there to keep their feet to the fire. That won't be done in any kind of cozy meetings. We never got anything in this province without fighting for it with the federal government," McCurdy said.

"What we should turn to is, what are the priorities for the use of that fund? I think it's much more sensible to spread it over a long period of time, I think that's something that could be negotiated."

McCurdy added there needs to be discussion with Ottawa about how Newfoundland and Labrador can better compete in a global fish market, using Iceland and Norway as examples on what more can be done to boost the province as a brand.