12 January 2005

With friends like Brian Peckford....

Danny Williams might well be sharing John Crosbie's palid view of Brian Peckford especially after the former premier's speech in Mount Pearl yesterday.

As The Telegram reported on Wednesday, Peckford's advice to Danny Williams was simple: leave the Atlantic Accord alone. The Accord already produces greater benefits for the province than Voisey's Bay or the Upper Churchill and, by implication, will continue to produce greater benefit as new fields are brought on stream or new discoveries made. In The Telegram and in other media interviews, Peckford has pointed to what is obvious to anyone familiar with the Accord: the Accord's Equalization offsets are already better than the situation available to any other province. Peckford pointed out, among other things, that the Accord has already provided the province with $500 million more than it would have received with Equalization alone.

Peckford should know since his government negotiated the Accord in the first place.

Peckford's position is the exact opposite of Danny Williams claim in June that, in the Accord, "Ottawa gave a bad deal to Newfoundland and Labrador."

Peckford's position is the exact opposite of the claim by Williams, Crosbie, Loyola Hearn and others that Ottawa takes money away from the province contrary to the Atlantic Accord.

Peckford's advice is to seek changes to the Equalization program itself. Ironically for Premier Williams, that is exactly what the Premier himself advocated in his election platform in October 2003. Peckford's idea of working for Equalization changes is exactly what Loyola Sullivan endorsed during the last federal election, despite Danny Williams insistence there was no way of judging the benefits of such an approach compared to the proposal for Accord changes originally made by Roger Grimes and the Vic Young Royal Commission.

"It's time now for substance, not style," The Telegram quotes Peckford as saying.

Peckford may be right; he may be wrong. Each of us will have to make that decision for himself or herself.

Certainly, Peckford does show that one can be an ardent supporter of Newfoundland and Labrador's cause, whatever that may actually be, and still disagree with the current provincial government.

Friends don't always tell you what you want to hear.

In that light, it might be wise for us all to go back and look more closely at Margaret Wente's column or the remarks by Professor Michael Bliss compared to Jeffrey Simpson. There may be substance beyond Ms. Wente's crude expression or Professor Bliss' modest proposal.