Another day, another entry from the parallel universe of broadcast journalistic standards that is the Fisheries Broadcast.
Today’s edition featured one R. John Efford, former provincial cabinet minister, former federal cabinet minister, and current proponent of the “trade deals” narrative. John Furlong will take it from here:
JOHN FURLONG: The issue of whether fish stocks off Newfoundland and Labrador have ever been traded for other international concessions seems to have taken on a life of its own. Just to recap, Father Des McGrath mentioned it to me in an interview a couple of weeks ago, making the direct allegation that fish stocks have, in the past, been used to sweeten trade deals with other countries. Then, former Premier Brian Peckford wrote a piece in the Telegram, saying he certainly felt that that’s what Ottawa had done, and while John Crosbie said he had never seen any evidence that fish was used in trade deals, he said here on the Broadcast last week it was used to smooth over external affairs matters, such as when France was given access to northern cod to try to straighten out the St-Pierre boundary dispute.
Interesting: Furlong uses the phrase “such as
”, and the plural “matters
”, implying thereby that the St-Pierre boundary issue – in which fish resources were used to settle a dispute over, well, fish resources – is but one of two or more such “external affairs matters.
What were the others?
Furlong then introduces his guest:
FURLONG: Someone else who sat around the federal cabinet table, and who has sat around provincial cabinet tables, is John Efford.
Well, John Efford, tell me, what’s your view of this whole issue?
EFFORD: I go back first to when I was Minister of Transportation in Newfoundland, and I happened to be in Ottawa, in meetings, transportation meetings, when Brian Tobin was involved in the Estai. And I’ll never forget the day that I was in Brian Tobin’s office, and I saw the colour in his face at the time that the, everything, was coming to its head in Ottawa. The Prime Minister, I guess, was coming to Brian Tobin, saying, “you can’t do this,” you know, he was about to, I would suspect, about to lose his job.* And it was a big issue, the Estai, and the firing of the guns, and all that stuff. I came back to Newfoundland, put my job on the line, Bud Hulan was Minister of Fisheries, and I put my job on the line, and organized a big rally in Newfoundland, and Beaton Tulk, and others, and Earl McCurdy got involved, and escalated that, and went right across Newfoundland. And that was an issue where we won the day. But at the end of the day, it was showmanship, because nothing ever came out of, to give us any encouragement that Newfoundland was going to get anything done outside the 200-mile limit, because I think we even had to pay the fines, or the costs of the Estai at that particular time, so that’s one example. But let’s get down to the real things, where the trade relations came into be. When I was Minister of Fisheries in Newfoundland, I was in Ottawa on a number of occasions, re the seal fishery, and opening the seal hunt, and every time you mentioned seal products, or seal hunt in Ottawa, the issue always came up with trade relations, canned salmon from British Columbia, Quebec, in particular Ontario, that was always, always the big issue.
At this point, a really good journalist would have jumped in and asked, “But Mr. Efford, how does that prove that Canada traded fish quotas for other trade considerations in other provinces? We didn’t give any seal quotas away to foreign countries, and the seal hunt has gone ahead anyway, hasn’t it?”
But alas, Efford is allowed to continue unchallenged:
EFFORD: The other example comes in decisions not being made in favour of Newfoundland was the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks, and that was the big issue, protecting the fish stocks on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks, and every time we mentioned custodial management, every time we talked about extending jurisdiction, every time we talked about Canada becoming involved in issue, it was always come down to trade relations. Ministers from other provinces, and we talked about Ontario with 107 members [sic] versus Newfoundland [sic] with seven members. And the other big issue that was detrimental to Newfoundland and Labrador, in particular Goose Bay, and I was involved in this at the time, in trying to keep the Goose Bay base open, and is this an example nothing to do with fish –
Good admission, John, because neither of those two examples shed any light whatsoever on the supposed “trade deals”, of fish quotas for other consideration in other provinces, that Furlong called you to talk about. He continues:
but it gives you an example of how much the power of other province [sic] got this sway towards decisions being made in Newfoundland and Labrador. And a Minister, a colleague of mine, said in a meeting, this was not a cabinet meeting, this was a meeting where the officials of the other departments was there, and the forces, the armed forces were there, and he said very clearly, about closing the one in Quebec versus the one in Labrador, and “God, we can’t close the one in Quebec, we’ll be slaughtered, what’s the population of Quebec versus the population of Newfoundland and Labrador.” And that was the kind of comments was made. So those things happened all the time, and in particularly [sic] in the fishing industry.
Particularly in the fishing industry? It would have been nice to proffer some, well, particulars there. Particulars particular to the particular industry that is the subject of the whole trade-deals thingie. Furlong senses an opening;
FURLONG: So just let me go back to the Brian Tobin example, now, the Estai, so was the implication that if Brian Tobin upset, you know, Spain or Portugal that it would have a detrimental effect on our trade relations, and that’s why the Prime Minister was upset.
EFFORD: His other ministers were certainly concerned about it, but in the Prime Minister’s case, I guess it was the fact of firing the bullets, that was the big issue, and how far could you go. I mean Canada starting a war, but other ministers from other provinces, on anything comes to relations, comes to with major issues like the fisheries in Newfoundland, when it comes to Spain, Portugal, Russia, and all those other countries, yes, trade relations do play a major role.
FURLONG: Now what about the political reality, though, you mentioned it, though, you mentioned it, the number of seats in Newfoundland, seven, in Newfoundland and Labrador we have seven seats, we don’t have the same clout as Ontario’s hundred-plus seats, I mean, that’s just an economic fact of life, though, isn’t it, or a political fact of life, I spose, is a better way of putting it.
EFFORD: It’s a political fact of life, and that’s the unfortunate thing, and the other thing, you know, that you have to realize, is that the people in Ontario, the people in Alberta, or the Ministers I’m talking about, when it comes to issues like the fishery, they know very little about the fishery, not like Newfoundland and Labrador, we realize how important it is to our economy. One of the messages I tried to get through all the time was that, look, the fishery off Newfoundland and Labrador is not only vital to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, it’s part of the world food chain, and we can’t keep destroying the stocks and wiping them out, because it’s going to have a major impact on the whole world, not just the economy of our province. But when it comes down to the final crunch of factories closing or losing trade relations, you know darn well who’s gonna win out the day. The larger the population, the more favouritism, the votes. You got 107 [sic] against 7, Ontario versus Newfoundland, or British Columbia, or any other large province.
(Hey, John? Larger population versus smaller. Does that explain your support for FANL, even as against the interests of Labrador fishermen, back 15, 20 years ago?)
FURLONG: Now, you told a Commons committee a few years ago, that, you had proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the will is not there, and I’m quoting now, “the will is not there for Canada to take the necessary action for the best interests of the fishing industry”. You said it’s because of trade relations, you said, “I believe very strongly that it’s because of what the loss may be to other provinces, and on other products in this country.” But do you have evidence of that, John Efford, or is it just your strong opinion?
Finally! A darn good question!
EFFORD: It’s not only my strong opinion, it’s what I heard, it’s not evidence that I have on paper, written documents –
Good call! It’s not evidence at all, then: it’s hearsay. Just like everyone else seems to have.
– but when you hear Ministers from provinces like Ontario make the statements I just told you about. The Ministers have the power, in numbers, to override something like the issues that we bring forth. Now, you know, if you could get all the Ministers from those provinces to agree, that, yeah, you know, that the fishery is part of the world food chain. But when it comes down to their own particular riding, their own factories closing up, definitely. It is a factor, and it has been a factor, and it will be a factor –
Which is about where Furlong ought to have jumped in and asked:
Which ridings, John?
Which factories in which ridings have been threatened with closure by which countries (and which countries own factories to close?) because Canada wouldn’t give those countries which stocks of which fish, and when?
– until a Prime Minister, and the only person can change that is a Prime Minister, can say, look, this has got to stop, this is part of the world food chain, this is a major, major issue, and I don’t see that happening in the near future.
FURLONG: And do you get the sense it’s the same way with the seal hunt, that if certain countries object to the seal hunt, that it may have a detrimental effect on foreign trade?
Interesting hypothetical question John. Now, remind everyone again: is there a seal hunt, yes or no? Which “certain countries” have objected, what has been the detrimental effect on foreign trade, and how has Canada capitulated to that pressure by, shall we say, stopping the seal hunt? Efford answers:
EFFORD: Oh definitely. Now I was Minister in Newfoundland and I was Minister in Ottawa, and I can habsolutely tell you clearly, it is definitely a major, major issue.
So there is plenty of “proof”, as John Efford can tell you.
Ontario has more seats then “Newfoundland”.
Sometime countries put pressure on Canada over the seal hunt.
John Efford organized a rally one time.
Some people think that extending Canadian jurisdiction outside 200 miles would harm relations with other countries.
Someone made a political calculation once regarding military porkbarrelling.
The Prime Minister was worried about starting a war.
Cod is part of the food chain.
Some ridings have factories in them.
The one thing Efford can’t, apparently, tell you?
The answers to any of the big questions:WHO
traded fish quotas to foreign countries? To WHICH
foreign countries? WHAT
fish? In exchange for WHAT
trade or foreign policy considerations or concessions? WHEN did these deals occur? WHAT
was their duration? WHERE
were they signed or otherwise approved, and by WHOM
did this happen? HOW
, that is, under authority of what domestic or international legal regime, was this fish-for-X practice carried on?Dénouement:
Furlong points to the Telegram’s on-line poll from the weekend
, cleverly implying, but not openly stating, that the results are somehow further proof of the trade deals myth.
The only fact that the poll – or any poll – can prove, is that X percent of people responded A, B, or C, when asked question Y. In this case, that 92% of respondents answered yes to the question, “Have you or do you hold the belief that, in the past, Ottawa traded Newfoundland fish quotas for better foreign markets for other Canadian products?”
Even I would have answered yes. Why? Having thought, once, that the “trade deals” story was true — along with the assertion that the federal government collects offshore oil royalties — I would have had no other truthful option in answering the Telegram
poll, but to answer yes.
But the question would be methodologically unsound even if the sample was random, because the question is double-barreled: it asks about your views in the present (“do you hold the belief…”) and in the past
(“Have you… hold the belief… [sic
92% of respondents now hold, or held in the past
, the belief that these trade deals exist. That is the only fact that the poll proves.
If the Telegram
also asked, even as a single-barreled question, “Do you believe that the universe is, like, one big giant atom, dood?”, it, too, would elicit a non-zero positive response. It would have been an interesting exercise in finding out what a self-selected sample of people (or the same guy over and over again
) believes about the universe, but it would be entirely useless as cosmology or physics.
* Finally, an excuse to break open Tobin’s All in Good Time
, which does not corroborate Efford’s version, or vice-versa. Take your pick.