Nfld. & Labrador

Ottawa putting new stipulations on CETA deal, Paul Davis says

The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador says the federal government is putting new stipulations on its contribution to a $400-million fisheries fund.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis says he's meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday to discuss new stipulations Ottawa is putting on a $400-million fisheries deal. (CBC)

The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador says the federal government is putting new stipulations on its contribution to a $400-million fisheries fund.

Premier Paul Davis announced Tuesday "we have a deal," and the province would be calling on Ottawa to "deliver on its commitment" of $280-million.

Davis' comments were partly eclipsed by confusion about how — or even if — he would present the case directly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. 

Davis told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that he would meet with Harper in Ottawa on Wednesday to finalize the deal, and added that without such an agreement, the province would have to reconsider its support for CETA.

However, a spokesperson with the Prime Minister's Office later said that Harper will be out of town, and that there is "no planned meeting" between Davis and Harper. 

Later, Davis' office said it was told that a meeting would have to be rescheduled because the prime minister is attending the funeral of hockey legend Jean Béliveau. 

The PMO said Harper is "certainly open to meeting" with Davis in the future.

Last year, the federal government announced it would give the province 70 per cent of the CETA fund.

According to Davis, the federal government now only wants to provide compensation for elimination of minimum processing requirements.

If that compensation costs the provincial government less than $280-million, the federal government would be able to use that money for other provinces.

But Davis said dropping the minimum processing requirements (MPR) for European markets in exchange for federal money is a corner stone of the deal and he has no intentions of giving them up without an investment from Ottawa.

"We clearly have a deal here," Davis said, adding the new stipulations are not in line with previous talks about the fund.

'Never a blank cheque'

Meanwhile, Rob Moore — the minister responsible for ACOA and Newfoundland and Labrador's representative in the federal cabinet — said settling the details of the MPR fund remains a goal of the government. 

"The MPR fund was created to compensate for anticipated losses from the removal of minimum processing requirements," Moore said. 

"The fund was never intended as a blank cheque that would give the industry in Newfoundland and Labrador an unfair advantage over other Atlantic provinces."

With files from Peter Cowan


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