15 April 2007

The change Locke found

In Wade Locke's original analysis, he used the assumption that Equalization offsets provided for in the 2005 offshore revenue agreement and enabled by the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador Additional Fiscal Equalization Offset Payments Act, S.C. 2005, c. 30, c. 85, would continue as originally intended.

Under that Act as it currently stands, the additional offset is calculated based on the difference between what the provincial government received in Equalization under the formula in use at the time.

The Equalization changes contained in the 2007 budget gave the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador an option of which Equalization formula would apply.

However, s.84 of the budget implementation Act (C-52) makes a significant change to the 2005 implementation Act by imposing a definition of the Equalization system in use at the time to mean the O'Brien formula.
84. The definition “fiscal equalization payment” in section 18 of the Act is replaced by
the following:

“fiscal equalization payment” means (a) for the purposes of section 22, the fiscal equalization payment that would be received by the Province for a fiscal year if the amount of that payment were determined in accordance with section 3.2 of the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, without regard to section 3.4 of that Act; and,

(b) for the purposes of sections 24 to 26, the fiscal equalization payment that would be received by the Province for a fiscal year under Part I of the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act if the Province’s total per capita fiscal capacity were the amount determined by the formula

A + B + (C / F)


A, B, C and F have the same meaning as in the definition "total per capita fiscal capacity" in subsection 3.5(1) of that Act.

As a result, even in a year in which the province used the existing Equalization system (100% of resource revenues included), the additional offsets would be reduced since the O'Brien formula already offsets half of resource revenues.

Additionally, the use of the O'Brien formula, which includes a cap on payments, the proposed changes in the budget implementation legislation would change the meaning of s. 22 of the 2005 implementation Act. Under the current meaning of that legislation, no additional offset payment would be received if the provincial government did not receive an Equalization payment.

In the operation of the Equalization system and the offsets agreements as currently in effect, no payment would be paid if the province did not qualify for Equalization. However, under the O'Brien formula, the province may qualify for Equalization, but receive no payment in years where a combination of all revenues (own source plus Equalization plus Equalization offsets) exceeds the per capita fiscal capacity of the lowest non-recipient province.

Given the amendments contained in Bill C-52, Newfoundland and Labrador would actually receive no offsets at all in any year where its Equalization payment were reduced to zero as a result of the O'Brien cap.

There is no obvious reason for making this change. If the federal government wanted to give effect to both the 2005 agreement and the 2007 budget - allowing for choices - Bill C-52 would necessitate only modest changes, if any, to the implementation acts for 1985 Atlantic Accord and the 2005 agreement.