09 February 2007

For the record: Danny Williams' 2001 speech to Nova Scotia Tories

Shortly after taking power in 2003, the provincial Progressive Conservatives stripped their party website of any documents from their time in opposition.

The reasons are inexplicable.

The site could have been re-arranged but older, important document still retrieved via google. Could have been, that is, if the Tory webmaster hadn't also blocked access to the old stuff.

Never fear, gentle reader. Some of us saved files for just such an eventuality.

In light of recent events, it is useful to go back and look at what Danny Williams said to a bunch of Nova Scotia Tories in 2001. Williams had just recently been elected leader. Some of his recollections of what had happened just prior to that might not be entirely in accordance with the historical fact, but in the six years that Danny Williams has been in elected politics, some of us have come to understand the Premier's penchant for making things up as he goes along inaccuracy.

A few things to note:

1. The then-newbie politician apparently spent 25% of his working day listening to radio call-in shows. The practice continues but now draws in public servants.

2. The obviously visceral hatred evident for the federal government, which Williams equates with "Liberals".

3. In light of the campaign to increase federal transfer payments through Equalization and offshore revenue side-deals, the oddity of this statement: "We don't want handouts. We want our pride back. We want to be independent and self-sufficient."

4. The numerous historical fallacies - a polite word for falsehood - like the bit about the federal "manipulation" on the Upper Churchill deal or pre-Confederation Newfoundland "owning" adjacent ocean resources.

Williams sees cooperation
among Atlantic provinces as
the key to battling Ottawa

Notes for a Speech by Danny Williams,
Newfoundland and Labrador PC Party Leader,
at the Nova Scotia Annual Premier's Dinner
Halifax, NS, Saturday, June 2, 2001

This text may vary from the delivered version

Thank you very much for the invitation to speak to your annual fundraiser this evening. Unfortunately, my wife, Maureen, could not join me as she is attending a graduation party for the son of a close family friend.

I want you to know that I feel very much at home here tonight. Both Maureen and I remember fondly the day 30 years ago as newlyweds when we jumped into our beaten-up '61 Valiant Station Wagon and headed for Dal where I obtained my Canadian Law Degree. Our memories of student poverty are treasured. In particular, I vividly remember one lunchtime in Dartmouth when we were trying to scrape together the price of two snack packs of Kentucky Fried Chicken by hauling out the seats of the car to get some loose change to make up the shortfall. The Colonel hasn't tasted as good since.

But my fondness for this province is not just personal. It is also cultural. We have a history and values that go back centuries before Confederation. The bonds that unite us are far stronger than the few differences that could divide us. We have common goals, common interests, common challenges, common vulnerabilities, common opportunities and of course a common boundary. But we have been more than just neighbours sharing adjoining properties. We have been partners sharing enterprises, resources and people. We hold kinship in thousands of families throughout both our provinces. Many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians like myself have received quality education in your province and are alumni of Nova Scotia Universities and Colleges. So when I say that I feel at home, I mean it. Our Atlantic Canadian family is a strong bond that unites us all.

So you may ask yourself why am I here tonight. By way of quick background, just a year ago I was a very happy man. I had a good law practice, a successful business, some free time for my family and a chance to play the odd game of golf. But then the Leader of the P.C. Party in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ed Byrne, resigned and, in the absence of a strong successor, I decided that the province needed a change in leadership and direction - and I threw my hat into the ring. As a result, I sold my business to avoid conflict of interest. My practice is drying up because people think I'm too busy, and I now spend at least 25 per cent of my time listening to our open line shows and less time with family. In the last seven months, I have campaigned in the fall federal election - and also in two winter by-elections on the Great Northern Peninsula, both of which we won. I have had a leadership convention in April, and I now find myself running in a by-election in Corner Brook to obtain a seat in the legislature. I didn't realize how good I had it! Premier, no one will ever convince me that the role of a politician or a party leader is an easy one. As CEO of a private company, you are top dog - but in politics some days you are the dog and some days you are the hydrant.

But it does have its light moments. One supporter told me at the convention that the Liberals in Newfoundland should erect a sign in Port aux Basques that the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off indefinitely.

And another voter who wanted change in the Northern Peninsula told me that politicians and diapers have something in common: they both have to be changed regularly, for the same reason.

But all jokes aside, I am truly enjoying the experience and challenge of political life. Like Premier Hamm, I did not seek the position for something to do to fill the leisure hours. I have sought this position because I love my province, because I see some things that are desperately wrong that need fixing, because I think I bring a background to the table that can make a difference and because I cannot rest until I have tried.

The more that I see, the more nauseous and angry that I get. The way that our people and our region have been treated by one arrogant federal Liberal government after another is disgusting. The legacy that the late Prime Minister Trudeau and Jean Chrétien will leave in Atlantic Canada is one of dependence on Mother Ottawa, which has been orchestrated for political motives for the sole purpose of maintaining power. No wonder the West is alienated and Québec has threatened separation. Canadians - and Atlantic Canadians, in particular - realize the importance of dignity and self-respect while Ottawa prefers that we negotiate from a position of weakness on our hands and knees. We must heed the words of J.F.K. who said, "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate."

Our fellow Canadians must wonder why Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are always angry, always complaining about the inequity of the Upper Churchill, when we receive unemployment and TAGS benefits from Ottawa together with generous transfer payments.

We don't want handouts. We want our pride back. We want to be independent and self-sufficient. We have already lost 30 years of profits from the Upper Churchill representing tens of billions of dollars. If we had just ten years of profit from the remainder of that contract at today's prices, our province would be debt-free. Instead, Ottawa saves that money by paying less to Québec.

Last year, over $2 billion worth of oil left our shores - and, after the federal clawback, we netted $12 million. Our mining industry last year produced over $1 billion, and we netted $4 million after federal clawback.

If Voisey's Bay is developed, we will net approximately $6 million after clawback on over a billion dollars worth of nickel production.

So on those three items alone with $4.5 billion dollars of annual production we would net $22 million dollars on royalties after federal clawback of 70% and 80%.

Not to mention the gross mismanagement of our cod fishery by the federal government, resulting in its destruction; the bartering of our fishery rights for favoured access to international markets; and federal manipulation in favour of Québec on our hydroelectric power.

That is why we are angry, we just want a fair share. Comments like "fish have no home" from Trudeau, the philosopher king, might make good soundbites, but they portray arrogance and contempt for a hard-working people who have been deprived of their heritage.

In Atlantic Canada, we are resource-rich but economically poor. We do not benefit as we should from our resource bounty, and part of the reason is that we gave up ownership and control of some of our most important resources when we joined Confederation. Prior to that, we were a sovereign country and we owned the sea's resources. We brought with us the fish in the ocean and the oil and gas in the adjacent ocean shelf, and God knows what else might be discovered in years to come with new technology.

By contrast, the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were carved out of federal lands in 1905. The federal government of that day gave those new provinces ownership and control of the oil and gas in those former federal lands. They could own them and manage them as they saw fit. Alberta, in particular, has turned those resources into colossal wealth for the people of that province. There is no Alberta Accord to allow Albertans a limited share of the benefits from their natural resources. As a result, they hope to pay down $5 billion this year on their debt.

What is the difference between the wealth beneath Alberta's soil and the wealth beneath the sea adjacent to our coasts? Why have we been treated differently merely because our resources are located underwater rather than underground?

I believe that this distinction cannot be justified. I believe it is fundamentally wrong. I believe the situation is discriminatory and goes a long way to keeping our Atlantic provinces in positions of fiscal and economic subservience.

Our offshore resources belong to Canada simply because we are provinces of Canada. They are there because we are there. They go where we go. If we left Canada, the economic zone would go with us. There is no dispute about that. Why then should there be any dispute about the claim to the right of ownership of those economic resources within Canada? Joe Clark's government acknowledged our ownership and control over oil and gas resources offshore in 1979, but Trudeau rejected it in 1980. It was the Mulroney government in 1985 that gave us the Atlantic Accord.

Ours is a strong case of basic fairness and fundamental justice. Jean Chrétien knows this because he was Trudeau's Minister of Energy and intricately involved in the original negotiations. He should be ashamed of himself for the way that he has treated our provinces. Unfortunately, because of relatively low population numbers and the consequent low number of seats in the House of Commons, the Senate and the federal Cabinet, our voice is not heard loudly enough in Ottawa when we try to state our case. All too often, a muted voice is mistaken for a whining voice, if it is heard at all. Atlantic Canadians should never give up the fight to have clear ownership of resources in our economic zone restored to us. Don't ever forget that we collectively constitute four provinces of this country despite our population.

I am proud to say that one Premier in particular in this region has been fighting back and setting the example - and that Premier is John Hamm. Thank Heavens for Premier Hamm! Our province, with its string of silent compliant Liberal Premiers, owes John Hamm a debt of gratitude for fighting on their behalf. But it's time we joined forces and fought together. It's time to form a united power block in this region. With Ontario controlling the Commons, with Québec frequently setting the national agenda and with the West now uniting to ensure their particular perspective is heard, we cannot afford not to act in concert. Circumstances necessitate it. If we want to get our fair share of benefits and to influence public policy in this country, we must band together.

Provincial Liberal Governments in Atlantic Canada have put party ahead of province at the expense of the people they were elected to govern. By contrast, the Progressive Conservative approach is based on the premise that sacrificing the concerns of part of the country for the good of the whole of the country only leaves the country weaker, not stronger.

A blue tide is sweeping the Atlantic region. It has swept over the Maritimes and it is rolling in Newfoundland and Labrador, because our people are tired of poor representation. After a general election, all four Atlantic provinces will be Tory blue - and we must work together to get action.

His fellow Premier Ralph Klein has come out in favour of Premier Hamm's Campaign for Fairness. He feels that a better deal with Ottawa over the lucrative and ever-expanding royalties from vast reserves in the North Atlantic would benefit all Canadians and help the Atlantic provinces get back on their feet. Just this week, Jeffrey Simpson's column in The Globe and Mail drew attention to Premier Hamm’s campaign and the unfairness of clawback. And the Commentary in The National Post on Thursday past was entitled "The Cruel Hand of Equalization". The author agreed with Premier Klein that all Canadians would benefit by removing the shackles from Atlantic Canada and shifting from dependence on Ottawa to greater self-reliance. The perverse incentives of equalization only prevent sound, long-term development.

With developments in the U.S. energy plan and high energy prices, the time is right for the Atlantic provinces to revisit these issues and demand fairness.

Mr. Roland Martin, a former deputy Minister of Finance in Newfoundland and Labrador who now lives in Nova Scotia, recently published the first significant analysis of federal equalization payments since the program was introduced over 40 years ago. He says Ottawa should do three things to help the economies of the Atlantic provinces and reduce their dependence over the long term.

First, he says, Ottawa should take oil and gas out of the equalization formula so there will be no clawback of revenues from offshore royalties and taxes. Second, Ottawa should return to a ten-province standard for calculating entitlement to equalization instead of the current five-province standard. A ten-province standard would treat provinces equally in terms of their capacity to raise revenues, and would provide more equalization revenues to the Atlantic provinces.

Thirdly, Mr. Martin calls for a needs component in the equalization formula that will compensate, to some degree, for the higher costs of such public services as transportation, health and education in our province.

There is now a huge disconnect between the wealth generated by our resources and the net value we derive from them as provinces of Canada.

Ottawa, not Newfoundland and Labrador, is the big beneficiary.

This inability to gain any significant advantage from our resource wealth goes a long way to explaining the stark contrast between reported GDP growth and the actual economic and revenue benefits that accrue to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Newfoundland and Labrador leads the nation in GDP growth and has been at or near the top for several years.

For every one of those years, Newfoundland and Labrador has also led the nation in unemployment and outmigration and trailed every other province in the nation in its ability to raise revenues to pay for essential public services, despite having some of the highest taxes in the nation.

Our dilemma is compounded by Ottawa's retreat from the federal principles of comparable public services for comparable fiscal effort. Those principles distinguished Canada among the nations of the world for much of the post-war period. But we are much less a sharing, caring nation today.

Mr. Martin, in his own paper on equalization, described the widening gap in taxation levels among provinces as "a rapidly evolving threat to the nation's political, social, and economic survival".

All of us in Atlantic Canada are suffering as a result of Ottawa's greater tolerance for inequalities in Canada.

We can no longer count on transfers from Ottawa to help pay for essential public services up to national standards.

From now on, this region will be more reliant on it own resources than at any time in the last half-century.

It is urgent that we find ways together to adjust to these new realities.

And it is urgent that we work together to impress upon Ottawa the need to give us the time to make those adjustments - to end our dependence on Ottawa in a planned way, without creating an even-wider gap between this region and the rest of the country.

I believe that we need our own Atlantic Accord and we can achieve greater self-sufficiency by working together as a region. Ontario looks after Ontario. Québec has its own agenda. The western provinces are a force in their own right and have succeeded in capturing national attention to their issues.

So far, Atlantic Canada has been irrelevant in the debate about the values of our nation and its future. Thanks to Premier Hamm, people are standing up and taking notice.

There is much work to be done.

There is a fight to be won.

Capitulation is not an option.

We owe it to our children and their children to preserve and find new creative ways to build a stronger, prosperous and self-reliant society.

The fight is well underway in Nova Scotia.

It has begun with the Conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We will fight as a united team, and I firmly believe that we will win.