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Atlantic disaccord in Tory caucus

[PoliticsWatch updated 4:00 p.m. May 1, 2007]

OTTAWA  — Two Conservative MPs from Atlantic Canada are denying reports they are considering voting against the budget implementation bill because of political pressure in their home provinces.   
 
Over the past week, two stories have appeared reporting on a brewing revolt in the Tory caucus known for its discipline. 

On Tuesday, National Post columnist John Ivison named five MPs from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia who "government sources" told him were "potential dissidents" who "have threatened to vote against" the budget bill. 

None of the five MPs returned the Post's calls for comment. 

On Tuesday, PoliticsWatch caught up with two of the MPs after a meeting of the Commons fisheries committee. 

Nova Scotia MPs Gerald Keddy and Bill Casey both denied threatening to vote against their own government on a confidence matter. 

"I'm not even going to waste my time commenting on that," Keddy said. "I'm denying it."
 
Casey also denied making the threat to vote against the budget bill. 

Since the Conservatives introduced their budget earlier this year, the premiers of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia have been critical of the new equalization formula they claim will make a historic accord they signed regarding resource revenues meaningless.  

Under the budget changes, the premiers have the option to stay in the old equalization system and keep 100 per cent of their resource revenues. Newfoundland 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. 

Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, who is a Progressive Conservative, has gone as far as urging people in his province to vote against the Conservatives in the next election. 

After Williams and other premiers came out against the new equalization deal, Keddy was front and centre defending the deal to reporters in Ottawa. 

"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 10-province average," Keddy said at the time. 

"I think this is a fair process that's been put forward." 

Government sources told PoliticsWatch Tuesday they are not aware of serious threats by Atlantic MPs to vote against the budget, but do know meetings have been organized with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty

The Post reported that Flaherty is to meet with officials from Nova Scotia this week to smooth over any rift. 

The budget has the support of the Bloc Quebecois so even if five government MPs did vote against the government the bill would still easily pass in the House of Commons. 

Nonetheless, political parties tend to enforce stringent caucus discipline on MPs when it comes to matters of confidence. MP Joe Comuzzi was recently expelled from the Liberal caucus after he voted with the government on the budget. 

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