Cablegate: Newfoundland Challenges Ottawa Over Fish

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. HALIFAX 0110; B. 02 OTTAWA 3256


2. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Newfoundland-Labrador government, stung
by Ottawa's decision to shut down the province's cod fishery, is
seeking a constitutional amendment to force the federal
government to share control of the fishing industry. (END

3. (SBU) Newfoundland-Labrador's Deputy Minister of
Intergovernmental Affairs told us on May 14 that his political
masters are committed to their quest to obtain shared management
of the fishery in waters off the province, following the federal
government's unilateral decision to end cod fishing there.
Andrew Noseworthy, a veteran bureaucrat who has served in
several Newfoundland-Labrador administrations, dismissed the
notion that current Premier Roger Grimes is exploiting this
hot-button issue to garner popularity before he calls a
provincial election. Noseworthy acknowledged the move does give
a high-profile opportunity to the governing Liberals.
Nonetheless, he emphasized that all three political parties in
the Newfoundland-Labrador House of Assembly voted unanimously to
support Premier Grimes' resolution, which called on Ottawa to
renegotiate its constitutional right to manage the fishery.
Accordingly, all the parties have obligated themselves to
support the initiative regardless of the election outcome.

4. (SBU) Noseworthy asserted that any new provincial government
will pursue the case, noting that the Progressive Conservative
Party had first sought greater provincial control of the fishery
in 1979. Successive PC and Liberal governments have maintained
that the federal government has failed to lived up to its
constitutional obligation to manage the fishery in such a way as
to ensure the continued economic well-being of the province.
The historical document which Premier Grimes wants to amend is
the Terms of Union, which brought Newfoundland-Labrador into the
Canadian Confederation in 1949. By agreeing to union with
Canada, Newfoundland-Labrador relinquished control of its
fishery, accepting the principle of federal supremacy in
management of the resource.

5. (SBU) While Newfoundland remains committed to this issue,
Nova Scotia would prefer that its neighbor refrain from
challenging the status quo. Peter Underwood, Nova Scotia's
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, told Congen that
his province would likely maintain its longstanding refusal to
support any initiative to give Newfoundland-Labrador a greater
say in the management of the fishery. Nova Scotia fishermen
enjoy historical access to the waters off Newfoundland-Labrador,
a right that is currently recognized in how Ottawa allocates
access in the commercial fishery. As Underwood explained, Nova
Scotia has had similar battles with Ottawa on fishery management
issues, but has never believed that revising the existing
management structure was a viable solution, especially as there
would be a high political price to pay as well.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: Newfoundlanders attach tremendous
significance to the cod fishery, not only because of its
importance to the province's economy, but also because of the
vital and highly symbolic role that cod fishing played in the
history of Newfoundland. While we hear varying opinions on the
motives underlying Premier Grimes' actions with regard to this
highly emotional issue, constitution-watchers in Atlantic Canada
agree that the province's actions have the potential to open up
a new round of constitutional debate in the country. (END


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