Senator Fabian Manning says not only is his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador still paying for Danny Williams's 2008 ABC campaign against the federal Conservatives, but he has come to learn the rest of Atlantic Canada is having a hard time in Ottawa, too.
In an interview with CBC Radio's Fisheries Broadcast, Manning — who was appointed to the Senate in 2009, after serving one term as MP for Avalon riding — said even people in his own party know very little about Atlantic Canada.
He said Williams's tactic to punish Stephen Harper with the Anything But Conservative campaign in the 2008 election over a broken Conservative promise to exclude oil revenues from the equalization formula is still having repercussions six years later.
"We would be naive if we think that didn't exist here. It absolutely exists," said Manning, who lost his own seat in 2008, one of the victims of the ABC campaign that shut out federal Conservative candidates in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Manning said that before he was elected as an MP in 2006, "I was always under the impression, as many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are, that the people here in Ottawa that make the decisions here felt that Canada ends at Halifax."
He said seeing Ottawa up close has changed his mind.
"I strongly believe that many of the people that make the decisions here in Ottawa believe that Canada ends at the Quebec border — and these are within our own party, in the bureaucracy here," Manning said.
"I'm not trying to say it's one group or another, it's pretty well everybody."
'They have never seen the Atlantic Ocean'
Manning was asked to respond to criticism from Liberal MP Scott Simms that Manning has done little to advocate for the fishing industry from the Senate chamber.
Manning, who criticized Liberal MPs from his own province for ignoring a standing committee on fisheries, said there's little first-hand knowledge of the Atlantic fishery at the top levels of power in Ottawa.
"We have people that make decisions in relation to the fishery, such as these ones that offer advice to deputy ministers and ministers, such as with the shrimp fishery here, [who] operate on the Rideau Canal — they have never seen the Atlantic Ocean, and that's negative for us," said Manning.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the ABC campaign, we pay a price for that, and people can shrug it off and say, 'That's just an excuse,' but I've been around this game too long now to not know that without a voice here at the table we are at a major disadvantage," Manning said.
"We can't hide that."
Even before the ABC campaign that cost him his seat in the House of Commons, Manning had had a difficult history with Williams.
In 2005, amid a dispute over the province's crab fishery, Manning was thrown out of the provincial Progressive Conservative caucus for speaking out against government policy.
'We are on the outside'
Almost a decade later and now working in Ottawa, Manning said he is still dealing with the consequences of Williams's ABC campaign — even though he is in the governing party.
"I fully understand how this system works, and this system works best when you have somebody within the government circle, and we are on the outside, there's no doubt in my mind about that."
In the 2011 federal election, the Conservatives elected only one MP in Newfoundland and Labrador — Peter Penashue in the riding of Labrador. Penashue, though, was dogged by revelations of illegal campaign donations and resigned in 2013 to run in a byelection that he lost to Liberal Yvonne Jones.
Manning left his Senate seat in 2011 in an attempt to win back his seat of Avalon, but was defeated. Harper appointed him to the Senate again shortly after that election.
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