16 April 2007

That was then. This is now.

Then, federal foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay said:
"It is important to note that if Nova Scotia opts for the new system, it doesn't have to give up its Accord–in fact, the Accord will be fully respected and continue to provide benefits to Nova Scotia," said Minister MacKay. The Accord provided Nova Scotia with $830 million immediately upon signing.
Then - a mere few days ago - federal fish minister Loyola Hearn told reporters much the same thing:
Hearn insists the Atlantic Accord, which the province and Nova Scotia negotiated with the former Liberal government in 2005, is safe.

"Are we going to get screwed? The answer is no, we're not," Hearn told reporters Friday.

"Are we going to be disadvantaged … by a billion dollars or by a dollar? The answer to that is no, because the government of Canada committed that we would not be disadvantaged."
Then, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the House of Commons:
"The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador asked repeatedly that this government reject the recommendation of the O'Brien commission that would have put a cap on the equalization benefits of the Atlantic accord," Harper said to the House.

"The Atlantic Accord is preserved in this budget and is preserved due to the good work of the minister of fisheries and oceans and of course other members of our Newfoundland and Labrador caucus. Promise made and promise kept."
Now, finance minister Jim Flaherty admits that his budget caps Equalization offset payments in both the 1985 Atlantic Accord and a supplementary deal in 2005:
The province will also have the right to opt permanently into the new, improved, Canada-wide Equalization system. This choice provides the province with flexibility for the future and improves Newfoundland and Labrador's chance of qualifying for an extension beyond the existing system. If the province chooses the new Equalization system, it is only fair that the whole package would apply, including the fiscal capacity cap, to ensure fairness. In this case, it would not be just to other provinces if only Newfoundland and Labrador is allowed to double-dip or cherry-pick only those parts of the new Equalization program that will benefit the province.

To do so would give Newfoundland and Labrador access to Equalization payments above all the other Equalization provinces even though its fiscal capacity is higher than Ontario's and British Columbia's, which receive no Equalization payments. [Emphasis added]
To apply the cap, the Government of Canada is unilaterally amending both the 1985 Atlantic Accord signed by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Premier Brian Peckford and the 2005 deal between Prime Minister Paul Martin and Premier Danny Williams.

Forget a broken election promise.

Harper and his cabinet can't even stick to the same commitment over the course of four weeks.

To see the full impact of this latest revelation, compare Wade Locke's original analysis and the one based on capping what they said wasn't capped.

If the provincial government had waited until the evidence was amassed, the impact of this Conservative perfidy would hav been plain for all to see.

-30-

2 comments:

Kyle G. Olsen said...

While the Cons are being disengenuous in there representation, I don't think there is any room to be made here. What would the Liberal Party change? Would we be fiscally irresponsible and remove the cap (should the provinces opt into the system to begin with)?

Edward G. Hollett said...

Kyle:

There are two things here.

1. The Connies have unilaterally changed not one but two bilateral agreements between the G of C and a provincial government.

They didn't bother to tell anyone they were doing it and as the post indicates members of the ministry - including the PM! - either misled the public or were seriously misled themselves.

It's about honesty and integrity.

2. It would not be fiscally irresponsible to remove the cap from two agreements it was never intended to apply to. Both agreements are limited in time and scope. The federal government has cash coming out its ying-yang.

Look elsewhere in the budget and you will find plenty of fiscal irresponsibility. Honouring agreements by previous administrations - one of which is the basis for the entire offshore industry - that's pretty serious stuff.