19 April 2007

Did Danny consent?

Over at Offal News, Simon Lono has another take on the implications of the federal government's Equalization changes.

Lono makes the point that by changing the Atlantic Accord (1985), the current federal administration has raised troubling questions about any agreement between a provincial and the Government of Canada.

He's right.

But there's a couple of curious things about the Atlantic Accord (1985) Lono did touch on.

Let's add those in right now.

Under s. 64 of the agreement, the province may request that the entire deal be entrenched in the Constitution.
64. The Government of Canada agrees that should the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador achieve the requisite support among the other provinces for the constitutional entrenchment of the Accord that it would introduce a mutually agreeable resolution into Parliament.
No provincial administration has made such a request. Frankly, there's no public indication any provincial government ever tried to secure such entrenchment.

That simply reinforces Lono's content on the importance of the Accord. It isn't just any other piece of legislation that can be amended easily by one or the other party. The Atlantic Accord (1985) is about as close to a constitutional document as you can get and either party would tamper with it at its peril.

Beyond at though, there's another clause that bears on the current issue Lono raises.
60. Except by mutual consent, neither government will introduce amendments to the legislation or regulations implementing the Accord.
That sentence makes it pretty clear that if the federal government is altering the offset provisions of the 1985 agreement, they would need provincial consent to do so.

So did Premier Danny Williams consent?

If the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador agreed to the changes contained in Bill C-52, then the Premier's current public posture is sheer crap. He could not have been misled since the provincial government would have been fully aware of the proposed amendments and would have had to agree to them before they were tabled in the House of Commons.

Assuming - and that's dangerous with this administration given the Hibernia South experience - that they exercised appropriate due diligence, government officials and any external consultants they hired would have assessed the implications of the changes.

Now in his scrum, Williams was clear to accuse the feds of misleading his government, but he focused the bulk of his comments on misleading a private citizen. He spent considerable time accusing the finance department of misleading the public and Wade Locke.

Now if Williams misspoke in saying he had been misled, and instead meant to focus on what happened with the public, then Williams may well have consented to the changes. He just failed to us that. If that's the case then Danny Williams is as guilty of misleading the public as anyone else.

The feds are right in that scenario: Danny is just looking for a headline. He's looking to manufacture a crisis for what many are now speculating is coming: a referendum on separation. His confrontational approach to federal-provincial relations would certainly be consistent with that interpretation. It would also fit if the same guy giving him long-term strategic advice is the same political putz who thought it was a great idea to rip down Canadian flags. Overall, it fits with Williams' record of vicious anti-Ottawa rhetoric.

Now if the feds didn't tell anyone what was going on, then Williams has a legal case to overturn at least one set of changes to C-52. Then Williams is right.

But something says that if he had such an unequivocal case, Williams would be launching a lawsuit pretty freakin' quick. In that context, C-52 is such an incontrovertible breach of such an important agreement that every court in the land would smack Harper and Flaherty between the eyes in unequivocal terms.

All someone has to do is ask the feds and the province.

Oh yes, and ask for any documents demonstrating whichever scenario is correct. Danny Williams told us all the provincial premier's supported his 2005 deal. We still haven't seen any proof of that.