PMO spokesman apologizes in war of
words with Newfoundland
[PoliticsWatch posted 1:45 p.m. October 28, 2004]
|PMO communications director Scott Reid
OTTAWA — A top aide to Prime Minister Paul Martin has apologized for comments he made about Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams in a newspaper interview that appeared Thursday morning.
Scott Reid, Martin's chief spokesperson, said in an interview with the
Toronto Star that Premier Williams was making a mistake of "historical proportions" for his hard line in negotiations with the prime minister over Newfoundland's share offshore oil revenues.
"The problem that the premier will have eventually is that the truth will get out," Reid told
The Star. "And $1.4-billion or twice that perhaps will not end up in the pockets of Newfoundlanders for the sake of his ego and his political ploy."
Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting on Thursday, the prime minister said his aide has apologized for the remarks.
"Tensions were running pretty high," the PM said. "I think what we really have to do is cool down the rhetoric. Scott has apologized. But I think the rhetoric on both sides got very, very hot. What we really got to do now is get down to work and come up with arrangements that's fair for everybody."
Williams walked away from a First Minister's meeting in Ottawa this week accusing the prime minister of reneging on a verbal agreement he said he reached with the prime minister during the election campaign that would give Newfoundland 100 per cent of
its offshore oil revenues without a clawback.
Martin said he never made any such agreement and wants to clawback royalties when Newfoundland's economic capacity reaches that of Ontario. However, Liberal Party news releases and a letter from Newfoundland MP and Natural Resources Minister John Efford to his constituents makes no mention of any strings attached to the royalty deal. As well, Efford's letter specifically states the agreement would not affect equalization.
The controversy has sparked chaos in Martin's Newfoundland caucus, with some MPs suggesting they could sit as independents if the government does not live up to its election commitment.
It is not the first time that Reid has been accused of crossing the line.
Before Martin was formally nominated Liberal leader a year ago, Reid warned Via Rail that it should not spend a cent of the nearly $700 million in new infrastructure funding announced by then transport minister David
Collenette and approved by cabinet.
"Who is Scott Reid?" asked NDP Leader Jack Layton asked at the time. "He's not paid by the Canadian public, yet he's out here telling us that we cannot invest in rail in this country, even though they're sitting on a $7 billion surplus."
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