Review of Section 6 of the book’Lions and Jellyfish: Newfoundland- Ottawa Relations Since 1957′ by Raymond B. Blake -University of Toronto Press.
As pointed out in the partial review earlier , the absence of the naming of Government of Newfoundland documents in the bibliography or referencing them in the body of the book is very disturbing. It makes the whole exercise rather vacant as to context and makes a full appreciation of the relations between the Government of Newfoundland and the Federal Government position a rather incomplete one.
As one would say there are sins of commission and there are sins of omission. Unfortunately there are both in this book.
One would think that discussing Federal Provincial Relations , St. John’s and Ottawa , one would have to discuss at length the Fishery. Scant reference is given to it in this section of the book . It is mentioned but as I say in a brief and unsatisfactory way . Mention is made that it was part of the constitutional package that Nerwfoundland had originally placed on the table but no attempt is made to explain that position. Slight reference is made about the Fishery being nationalized which , of course, is untrue. Why in this context the Fisheries Restructuring Agreement ( referenced in note 88 at back of book without detail) is omitted is a mystery to me. Notwithstanding all the acrimony described in this book and by the media at the time a very major action, this Fishery Agreement was negotiated between the two Governments. This involved the folding of two companies that were part of the very fabric of the Newfoundland fishery , the Lake Group and Fishery Products Ltd and also the folding of the fishing interests of the Nickerson Group . These three were replaced with a new corporate entity Fishery Products International which changed the face of Corporate Fishing Interests in the Province at that time . This involved special legislation and the infusion of over 100 million dollars by both Governments .
Furthermore, there is a letter from me to the Prime Minister in the early eighties that details the Province’s concerns on the Fishery and foreshadows many of the problems that arise later.
There are many documents the author could have referenced to explain the fishery and Federal Provincial Relations concerning this important policy area. ‘Twas Well To Live Mainly Off Fish’ a document by NORDCO being one . Others include the Bilateral Documents referenced in my review of the introduction, the Managing All Our Resources ( one slight reference note 187 only with no detail) document , and from my book ‘The Past in The Present ‘ where detail on how the Newfoundland constitutional proposal would look in a new division of powers. My second book’ Some Day the Sun Will Shine and Have Not Will Be More ‘ details a lot of information as well. As mentioned in the review of the introduction David Alexander’s book ‘The Decay of Trade’ is an invaluable analysis of the salt fish trade with important insights on management. Some attention to the The Law of the Sea agreement and how Canada had promised Newfoundland that the full continental shelf would be covered under any agreement only to see this not occur plus the Terms of Union where most jurisdiction passed to the Federal Government are significant events that helped shape Newfoundland’s position of Fishery policy during my time.
Also during this time there was major discussion concerning : the use of factory freezer trawlers, the role of the inshore fishery and fishery allocation and the status of the 2J3KL stock and Federal Government actions to trade fish off Newfoundland to Europe for dubious gains in central Canada without any consultation with the Province . These points are necessary to review in order to fully inform oneself of the depth of the Newfoundland fishery position and how it would also affect on going Federal Provincial relations generally.
Secondly , there is no mention whatsoever of another major Federal Provincial action: the closing of the Newfoundland Railway in return for approximately a billion dollars of Federal money for roads and assistance to communities affected by the closure. This is a big deal ( Roads for Rails Agreement as it was called )when one considers the role of the Newfoundland railway in the development of the island part of the province for at least the first sixty years from 1900 to 1960 .
Thirdly, the redevelopment of the old Fisheries college into a modern Marine Institute ( now a part of memorial University) was a development involving Federal Provincial action during my time . It is important not only because it demonstrates Federal Provincial action during a time of Federal Provincial acrimony in other fields but also because it is a world class institution which shows leadership in post secondary education nationally and internationally.
Fourth, lets deal with the Patriation of the Constitution as presented in this book. Unfortunately, Mr. Blake tries to make all versions equal with no obvious appreciation for the credibility of the sources.
I do not know if this is errors of Omission or Commission but the following documents are unaddressed :
1. The document of Mel Smith , Constitutional Advisor for the Government of British Columbia , in which he provides a written briefing days after the Partiation Agreement to his Minister. In it he describes the Newfoundland Proposal that , amended on the evening Nov 4 , became the foundation document leading to the Patriation Agreement itself.
2. David G. Wood’s book ‘The Lougheed Legacy ‘ in which he quotes former Premier Lougheed concerning the Newfoundland document of the night of November 4.
3 The letter from former Premier Peter Lougheed to former Premier Rene Levesque concerning the Patriation Agreement in which he specifically referenced the Newfoundland document.
4. My taped interview with a journalist days after the Patriation Agreement detailing the events of November 4 and 5.
5. Documents filed by the Deputy Ministers of Intergovernmental Affairs ( Cy Avery) and Justice( Ron Penney) for Newfoundland which were the copies of the Newfoundland proposal of November 4.
6. Prime Minister Pierre Eliot Trudeau, himself, acknowledged to the press in my company and carried in a number of papers that it was the Newfoundland proposal that caused the Agreement to happen.
All five of these documents can be found in my book ‘Some Day The Sun Will Shine and Have Not Will Be No More.’ How come they are not referenced and explained by Mr. Blake in his discussion of the Patriation?
Mr. Smith, former Premier Lougheed , Abery , Penney and yours truly were all participants at the patriation conference. The Grahams( I refuted his position in his book in a letter to the Globe and Mail note 61 but not detailed) Sheppards and others writing later about the patriation process and contained in Blake’s book were not there , in the room. Neither were their sources , Ministers McMurtry , Chrétien and Romanow. Its interesting that Blake records an incident from journalist Clair Hoy about the three with a note at the back of the book , note 51. As one would expect with these three the note talks of an confidential interview with several journalist and two people close to the negotiations. No names , all private.
These authors of the so-called kitchen accord were not in the room when the deal was hammered out based on the Newfoundland proposal. Chrétien and McMurtry ‘s governments were not part of the gang of eight governments that met that night. And Romanow came late in the evening after the amended Newfoundland proposal had been agreed upon. No one in the room knew anything about a kitchen accord. It was concocted by the three and inflated by now Senator Mike Duffy , then a reporter.
In the room at the beginning of the night were: Smith of BC, Meekinson of Alberta, Leeson of Saskatchewan , and Abery and Penney of Newfoundland. Abery presented the Newfoundland proposal. It was felt that this might form the basis of something meaningful. Hence, other Provinces were contacted and the meeting had added to it , yours truly, Premiers Blakney, McClean and Buchanan, and Ministers Carver of PEI, Minister Morris of Nova Scotia . There was a second Minister from Nova Scotia whose name I forget at the moment. Manitoba did not have a representative present but was contacted , Minister Mercier, by Minister Carver of PEI so that that Province was kept in the loop. New Brunswick was not present since it was not part of the gang of eight.
It was in that room with those present named that the amended Newfoundland proposal was agreed to; typed overnight and presented by me to the full meeting of the gang of eight including Quebec , at breakfast the next morning November 5. It was approved by all except Quebec and then presented to the full federal provincial meeting later that day by me on invitation from the Prime Minister , and formed the basis of the patriation agreement.
That is what happened A to Z.
The one puzzling aspect is that of Howard Leeson, , Saskatchewan’s Deputy Minister who has gone out of his way to demean me personally , as Blake notes, and try and discount the above description. Of course, he was in a difficult position . With his Minister out publicly advancing an erroneous line , I guess he had to go with his Minister or resign. That is the only plausible explanation. Of course , it could be he just did not like me but I suspect that played a minor role if true. Protecting one’s Minister, that’s the why here, I submit. Interesting also to note that former Premier Blakney never backed up the comments of his Minister Romanow in my talks with him later.
Most if not all of the authors Blake quotes got it wrong and swallowed hook , line and sinker what they were fed by Duffy and the three Ministers Chrétien, McMurtry and Romanow.
Some of these authors described the night of November 4 as a small meeting of officials. They did not even get the attendance right. There were four Premiers and three Ministers . Some even had me as a messenger, perhaps the least likely of all the erroneous versions circulating as anyone who knows me could attest. Messenger to no one!
Graham’s assertion mentioned by Blake that Premier Buchanan and I tried to change some provisions after agreement on the night of November 4 is without foundation. Just one more unsubstantiated statement among the many others by the scribes of myth. And then there is Professors Cooper and Morton of Alberta stating ‘Since When Does Newfoundland Broker National Unity deals ‘ which gives the full
EXTENT OF THE BIAS THAT WAS PREVALENT . And this in 1991 several years after the deal. Of course, when confronted by Abery and Penney they had a much softer tune and even mentioned that they had not done a lot of research when I confronted them on their statements. So much for academia, at least as practiced in parts of Alberta. Of course, when the Judge of the Supreme Court gets Newfoundland’s position wrong as I detail in my book , how can one look with confidence to two political science types in a University?
Curious it is , also , that since the book ‘Some Day The Sun Will Shine and Have Not Will Be No More ‘ has been published in 2012 not one person has sought to see the documents that the two Newfoundland deputy ministers had filed away. I did not even know they existed until 1991 when the Alberta professors wrote the ‘Night of the Long Knives ‘ article and the deputy ministers responded detailing the documents. Nor has anyone asked for my tape of events . And I wonder has anyone sought out Mr. Smith’s written report to his Minister safely stored in a BC University archives? I think I was the first to discover it.
Why would Blake not reference these documents in that they play such a crucial role in exposing what is the truth about the Patriation process and final deal? Is not what people who were there say have greater legitimacy than third party accounts of people who were not there , especially when those that were there backed up their position with documentation?
So what do we have?
Unfortunately , a very incomplete discussion of Federal Provincial Relations during my time I regret to say. Negativity and rancour there was a lot, but there was also agreements that were significant to the Province and the Federal Government and they need to be balanced against the Offshore and Partiation issues for a full understanding of the relationship of that time. In addition to the large ones ( Agreements) mentioned above there were at least eight others.
As far as the Patriation description goes , it is very disappointing in light of the documents described here and the words of the then Prime Minister. Spicy myths better boring truth any day, even among scholars, it seems.
I love history. In light of my ‘Patriation Experience’ I read it now with a far more critical eye posing such questions as: Who were the vested interests of that time? Who were the scribes ? And who influenced or controlled them?