14 October 2008

The greatest piece of nonsense in a generation

Memorial University political science professor Michael Temelini likes to refer to the 2005 Atlantic Accord as an example of what can happen in a minority parliament.

The greatest piece of public policy in a generation he calls it.

That's not hyperbole.

That's just nonsense.

The 2005 agreement simply transferred $2.0 billion in federal cash to provincial coffers.  It hasn't produced a penny of new money since then.  It won't produce any more since the provincial government ceases to qualify for Equalization this year and won't qualify to renew the deal.

What Temelini either forgets or doesn't know is that offshore oil sits - constitutionally  - in federal jurisdiction. 

Under the real Atlantic Accord - signed in 1985 - the provincial government basically gets de facto control of the offshore, and more importantly sets and collects 100% of revenues as if the resource was on land.  The federal government collects typical federal revenues like income taxes, GST and corporate taxes.

All the royalties go to the provincial government.

And that's where they stay until the provincial government spends them.

Not a penny goes to Ottawa.

Never has.

At least not since 1985.

The enabling legislation for the real Atlantic Accord passed through parliament in 1987.  The provincial enabling legislation passed around the same time.

The agreement was signed between two majority governments.

But here's the thing.

Legally, constitutionally, the federal government wasn't obliged to do anything at all, let alone sign the 1985 deal.

The 1985 Atlantic Accord was one of the greatest pieces of Canadian public policy in a generation.

It is the sole foundation on which the provincial government's oil revenues rest.

Take that away and the 2005 deal is nothing at all