Lobster war traps NDP

Rating: NNNNNThat lobster dispute has long political claws. Even the NDP has been caught in the pincers of the dilemma.

Rating: NNNNN

That lobster dispute has long political claws. Even the NDP has been caught in the pincers of the dilemma — how to say what people want to hear in one part of the country and not get in trouble in another?

Most of the 20-member caucus come from the Prairies and Nova Scotia. The party knows it has to elect at least a couple of MPPs from Ontario in the next election, and its best chance is Toronto.

When I meet NDP leader Alexa McDonough on Labour Day, I’m curious to know what she has to say about the lobster standoff, in which the hardline government action against native fishers leaves us city dwellers shocked and appalled.

She’s quick to pin the blame on the Liberals, and I have to ask four times for a native-sympathetic answer.

The feds should not, she finally says, have signed agreements with bands one at a time, giving them boats and licences in exchange for their consent to fish in the same season and under the same rules as non-natives. “What (aboriginal people) want is an opportunity to participate in good faith in arriving at a new regime, because their treaty rights have been upheld in court.”

In contrast to his leader, Peter Stoffer, the MP for Sackville-Musquodoboit Valley-Eastern Shore, says the native fishers should make a deal with the feds.

“What Burnt Church should be doing is going back to the table and negotiating. Twenty-nine (native) groups have done it so far. There’s no reason why the others can’t as well.”

What the NDP is saying on the East Coast, says Halifax journalist Parker Barss Donham, puts them in the same boat as the Liberals and Alliance. “The NDP policy is that everyone should fish by the same rules.”

In other times, the NDP would be a voice of reason and idealism. They’d call on our values as citizens, as then leader David Lewis did in taking the unpopular decision to vote against the War Measures Act. Fortunately for him, the NDP had only one seat in Atlantic Canada back then.


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