Wednesday, April 25, 2007

 

Harper's gov't has betrayed Nova Scotia over accords

http://www.hfxnews.ca/index.cfm?sid=19509&sc=157

Very good article here on the macinations of the Capitalist Party of canada CPC.

The Daily News

Political expedience created the Atlantic Accords, and now political expedience is killing them. Stephen Harper supported them in 2004, because he needed votes. Paul Martin signed them in 2005, because he needed votes. And now Harper is killing them, because he needs votes.

If you want to know how ugly and dishonest Canadian politics are, this is a perfect case study.

Monday, the deceit and half-truths continued.

Let's start with External Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, our man in Harper's cabinet. When reporters cornered him on the accords - while he was attending a news conference at the QEII hospital - he again defended the ultimatum Harper gave Nova Scotia in last week's federal budget.

"They can get more money, or they can get even more money. Those are their options," MacKay said. "They have the best of both worlds."

They? You could argue MacKay is referring to Premier Rodney MacDonald's government. But the bottom line is that we, the hard-working citizens of Nova Scotia, are the "they" Harper is beating down with his attack on our offshore accord. Until MacKay starts referring to Nova Scotians as "we" and defending "us" against "them" - his federal Conservative brethren - he'll continue to be complicit in Harper's betrayal of Nova Scotia.

And it's definitely a betrayal. The accords Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador signed in 2005 promised offset payments equal to 100 per cent of any reduction in equalization caused by offshore gas and oil royalties, using the "equalization formula as it exists at the time."

But under Harper's ultimatum, the two provinces can only get full benefit of the Atlantic Accords if they settle for a revised version of the old equalization formula.

The new, fatter equalization formula cripples the accords' benefits by capping the total equalization and offset payments either province can receive at a level equal to the per capita "fiscal capacity" of the least wealthy "have" province, which is currently Ontario.

Contrary to agreement

That cap prevents us from getting full benefit of our offshore under the new formula, contrary to Nova Scotia's signed agreement with the Government of Canada. MacKay knows that, but he talks around it in the same obfuscating message points Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty employ.

Lumping in the offsets with the equalization payments is a convenient way for the federal Tories to pander to those provinces that hate the accords - that's every one except Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. They see it as us getting our cake, and eating it, too. To a certain extent, it is.

But the idea was that giving us the full benefit of our offshore royalties would provide an economic development tool to the two most indebted provinces in Canada. Without the ability to exceed Ontario's fiscal capacity, we're pretty much doomed to remain financial basketcases.

Harper recognized this in 2004, when he was in Halifax looking for votes.

Different message then

"Nova Scotia should be able to realize the benefits of the offshore to jump-start its economy just like my province, Alberta, was able to do with petroleum revenues," Harper said then. "If Alberta had been subject to these kinds of clawbacks, I tell you it would still be a have-not province today."

Other provinces have benefited from federal policies and agreements designed to boost their individual economies. Quebec has flourished thanks to massive subsidies for Bombardier, and drug-patent laws that protect pharmaceutical companies based there. Ontario has had the Auto Pact. And, of course, there's the federally funded icebreaking that keeps ports along the St. Lawrence Seaway operational throughout the winter.

Such policies have always produced jealousy, but successive federal governments have stood by them, because improving provincial economies is good for the nation as a whole. Harper doesn't see that, at least not where Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are concerned.

The other thing that happened Monday was that Nova Scotia's six Liberal MPs held a news conference to speak out in defence of the accords. More politics.

It's great that they're standing up for us, but if they really wanted to do it in a non-partisan fashion, they would have invited NDP MPs Alexa McDonough and Peter Stoffer along, because they've spoken out in the House of Commons, too.

At least our provincial politicians have realized there is strength in unity and numbers, and all three parties have set aside their differences to fight Harper together on this.

Moreover, it's questionable how committed the federal Liberals and New Democrats are to the accords. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland MPs have conducted the entire defence of the accords in the House of Commons.

Neither Stephane Dion nor Jack Layton has stood on the issue since Flaherty introduced his budget last Monday. Not once.

Why? Because they know the rest of Canada wants Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to lose.


drodenhiser@hfxnews.ca

David Rodenhiser doesn't like Stephen Harper's culture of deceit. He lives in Dartmouth.

Nova Scotia Economist Paul Dobson like Wade Locke before him falls prey to the Capitalist party of canada's CPC propaganda and slander machine.

Paul Hobson, an economist, said last week a cap on how much equalization and offshore revenue the province can receive if it opts into the Tories’ new equalization system will cost the province about $1 billion.


http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/638318.html

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