Conservatives defend budget from
Atlantic premiers' attacks
[PoliticsWatch posted 4:35 p.m. March 20, 2007]
OTTAWA — The
prime minister and one Atlantic Conservative MP spent Tuesday
defending the new equalization payments outlined in Monday's federal
On Monday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced all provinces
would receive a total of $39.4 billion over seven years to fix the
Flaherty went as far as to declare that the "long, tiring, unproductive era of bickering between the provincial and federal governments is over."
However, in the 24 hours since budget was unveiled three of the four
Atlantic provinces have resumed bickering, including two Progressive
Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams said that the
Conservatives have "completely shafted us" by unveiling a
new equalization program.
The premiers have the option to stay in the old equalization system
and keep 100 per cent of their resource revenues. Newfound and Nova
Scotia negotiated to have their offshore resource revenues excluded
in the recent Atlantic Accord. The provinces can also enter the new
equalization system and have 50 per cent of their resource revenues
included in their equalization calculations.
"What I'm saying is to the people of this province, based on the fact that they've broken their promise and broken their commitment,
(Newfoundlanders) should not vote Conservative in the next federal election," Williams said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed Williams' criticism
during question period on Tuesday.
"I heard what Danny Williams said yesterday, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that is completely untrue. There is no cap on the Atlantic Accord. The Atlantic Accord is preserved in this budget."
Another Tory premier, Rodney MacDonald of Nova Scotia, came
out against his federal counterparts for the first time since he was
MacDonald said forcing the provinces to choose between the old and
new system is essentially a "roll of the
"We have some very difficult decisions to make because of this budget," he said. "It's unfortunate, but that's the reality."
In Ottawa, Tory MP Gerald Keddy, who is from Nova Scotia,
told reporters he thought the offer was fair.
"You have to understand you can't have it both ways," Keddy
said. "This system here allows for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to look at a new deal within the Confederation or look at their old deal and keep their offshore accord 100 per cent of it and accept the
"I think this is a fair process that's been put forward. The
job is for Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to decide where they want to
Even provinces that don't have offshore accords are not happy with
the new equalization money.
New Brunswick Finance Minister Bernie Boudreau said his
province would need an additional $156 million a year to fix the
"If it was to fix the fiscal imbalance as far as New Brunswick is concerned, I wouldn't give
(the budget) a passing grade," he said.
While the Conservatives made breakthroughs in Ontario and Quebec in
the last election, Atlantic Canada continues to be a problem for
The Tories won just nine of the 32 seats in the four Atlantic
provinces in the last election and the party only has three cabinet
ministers from the region.
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