Thursday, December 07, 2006

Will John Cummins be the next Garth Turner?

The outspoken Conservative MP from British Columbia doesn't think so, but we all know how well PM Harper handles dissent and disagreement in his caucus.

Cummins, the MP for Delta-Richmond East, is speaking out in the Vancouver Sun this morning about native fishing rights and the first treaty agreement in B.C. to be endorsed by the Harper government. Cummins claims the agreement bestows what he calls a "race-based commercial fishery" on the small band in the Prince George area.

He references Harper's promise in a letter to a Calgary newspaper in July that promised the government would "oppose racially divided fisheries." While Cummins doesn't outright say Harper broke the promise, the implication is clear. "I think I'll leave it to the prime minister to explain his actions and to the public to interpret them," Cummins said.

I'm not sure Stephen will appreciate the nuance, John. While he's not blogging about it, Cummins has produced a "blistering" 39-page report on the treaty that he sent to Harper and Jim Prentice, and gave to the Sun yesterday.

For what it's worth, while I haven't followed treaty and fishery issues that closely recently, in principle I'd come down against Cummins here. Harper's comments in July were inaccurate and divisive, and while a balance needs to be struck between the rights of native and non-native fishers, if the Harper government is backing off the hard-line and talking a more nuanced approach I'd welcome that. Interesting to watch though will be the reaction of commercial fishermen, of whom Cummins was once one, and who make up a great deal of the Conservative base in British Columbia, to a policy shift. This is a very charged issue on that West Coast that will need to be handled delicately.

Anyway, looks like you may have some company soon Garth.

Tory MP breaks ranks over deal
Delta treaty worth $120M
Peter O'Neil, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, December 07, 2006

OTTAWA -- Conservative MP John Cummins broke with the Tory government Wednesday to say its policy of finalizing native treaties in B.C. runs counter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's vow to oppose racially divided West Coast commercial fisheries.

Cummins' blistering 39-page report on the first treaty to be endorsed by the Harper cabinet, for a tiny band in Prince George, comes on the eve of two more expected treaty announcements in B.C. on Friday and Saturday.

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canuckistanian said...

"race-based fishery", constitutional rights; you say tomato, i say tomato. harper's letter blew my mind. i'm really curious how they are going to go about re-writing the constitution to take away first nations rights on this issue. i don't think they can. as such, it would appear to be solely an effort to pander to their bigotted base.

Jamie said...

This isn't about "race" its about property rights - something the right wing is in favour of unless it involved natives.

Aboriginals in BC never ceeded their rights to their land and resources in treaties. Now we are negotiating how much they still own. Pretty simple, don;t you think?

A BCer in Toronto said...

Jamie, I agree it's not about race. If the Harper government is backing off the stance that Steve took in that letter then that's a good thing, no matter what Cummins says.

Miles Lunn said...

I doubt it. Stephen Harper only goes after moderates in the party who speak out against him not the extremist who do.