from Dan Leger in today’s CH: You’ve probably read it but it bears repeating and being read widely. Believe it or not, not everbody gets the Chronicle Herald. We have emphasized one line in bold.
By DAN LEGER
IT’S TIME to
start saying things that need to be said about the Atlantic accords and
the Great Equalization Flap of 2007. The past two weeks have been so
full of half-truths, propaganda, “urban myths” and outright baloney
that things have to be put straight.
So here are some truths about equalization and the Atlantic accords.
Truth No. 1: The federal government owns the oil and gas off
Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, period. It’s not a matter of
interpretation. It’s not politics. It’s a legal fact. The Supreme Court
of Canada decided in 1984 that offshore resources are federal property.
That means it is absolute rubbish for Newfoundlanders or Nova
Scotians to claim that the offshore is our birthright and a sacred
entitlement. We tried that argument, and lost.
Truth No. 2: Nova Scotia and Newfoundland get royalties from the
offshore and have a say in running it because of a deal worked out for
political reasons by the Mulroney government in 1985. It was the right
thing to do, but it was political. It’s also true that Tories held 25
out of the 32 federal seats in Atlantic Canada at the time.
Truth No. 3: Federal bureaucrats and the vast majority of the
political and journalistic class in Ottawa, of which I was an
enthusiastic member for six years, believe provinces are ruled by
blowhards and hillbillies. Provincial premiers are rubes. It is
axiomatic that the biggest rubes in federal Ottawa right now are Danny
Williams and Rodney MacDonald.
It is an Ottawa truth that when the likes of Mr. MacDonald or Mr.
Williams make a demand, it is automatically considered to be a
money-grubbing ruse by whining have-nots. If Quebec makes the same
demand, it is a national-unity challenge. If Ontario makes it, it’s for
the good of all of Canada.
Truth No. 4: In 2005, then-prime minister Paul Martin was so
desperate to win seats in the coming election that he was willing to
agree to just about anything. He guaranteed that Nova Scotia and
Newfoundland would be immune from having offshore royalties clawed back
through the equalization program. He did not do this because it was
right or wrong, merely because he needed the votes.
Truth No. 5: The federal government can and it has unilaterally
changed the Atlantic accord. It can also claw back Nova Scotia’s gas
royalties and it can thumb its nose at our complaints. All these moves
are perfectly legal and constitutional. The Atlantic accord is merely
an “arrangement” signed by two fairly junior cabinet ministers.
Remember, equalization is a federal program. As long as Ottawa is
meeting the program’s general goals ‚Äì that have-not provinces are
funded to provide services roughly equal to those in have provinces at
roughly equal tax rates ‚Äì then Nova Scotia can’t do a thing about it.
Truth No. 6: There’s no such thing ‚Äì as Finance Minister Jim
Flaherty would have us believe ‚Äì as “contributing provinces” and
“receiving provinces.” Every Canadian taxpayer pays into equalization,
no matter where they live, and that includes all of us Bluenoses.
Truth No. 7: We might not be having these problems if the provinces
themselves didn’t squander their chance to create a new equalization
formula. Last summer, the premiers battled themselves to an impasse
trying to work out a new system, leaving Stephen Harper the right and
responsibility to devise a new one. We’ve all seen what he came up with.
Truth No. 8: This new hard-line position on equalization reflects
the absolute belief in Ontario that it is being soaked by provinces
like Nova Scotia. It’s mind-boggling, I know, but poor little Ontario
thinks it’s getting robbed by nasty Nova Scotia.
Truth No. 9: Both Bill Casey and Peter MacKay are right. Mr. Casey
rebelled on a point of principle. Mr. MacKay is staying and working
inside the cabinet in line with his own principle: that some things are
done better within the system.
Truth No. 10: This is the tough one. What we are demanding is
unfair. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador should be content to
get their fiscal capacities to the national average and then allow
sharing of their resource wealth.
Why? Because that is what democratic nations are built on: fairness
and justice. Because Alberta shares its petro-wealth. Because Ontario
used to be generous too. Because without the great Canadian sense of
fairness, equalization wouldn’t exist in the first place. And Nova
Scotia would be poor as dirt.
Thank you Dan. Somehow we don’t think you will be applauded like Casey but heck. Virtue is its own reward.