Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to the motion before us today.
I want to provide a bit of perspective not from Saskatchewan, but from Atlantic Canada as I represent a riding in New Brunswick. It is interesting how this discussion developed.
The Conservative Party has been consistently proposing that provinces need more access to their non-renewable resources. We have to remember that there is a finite opportunity to exploit these resources. These resource revenues can best be utilized at a level closer to the Canadian people.
In the last election we saw nothing short of a deathbed conversion. At the very last minute going into an election when seats were up for grabs, the current Prime Minister was in a rather desperate situation. There was a last minute promise to give access to the revenues from non-renewable resources to Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Nova Scotia.
Those provinces were rightly pleased because under the current situation, it is hard to believe but of every dollar of revenue that was earned on offshore and non-renewable resources, approximately 70¢ was clawed back. That is a major disincentive to invest in offshore resources. It is a major disincentive to provide the infrastructure required to advance operations that could bring a province's economy up. It could provide employment.
I have talked to many of my colleagues and friends from school, people with whom I graduated. Some of them have moved to other parts of Canada. Some of them have moved to the United States. Some of them have moved overseas. Overwhelmingly they would have liked to have stayed in Atlantic Canada but they were unable to find gainful employment in their field.
We know there is a need. We also know there is a problem. The problem is that these provinces are not being given the opportunity to reach their full potential. That is exactly what the old formula did. By clawing back resource revenue, we were denying those provinces the opportunity to move forward. Our leader and our party recognized that. The Prime Minister was loath to ever contemplate something like that. That is why on the eve of the election in a knee-jerk reaction he made a desperate promise, but he made a promise nonetheless.
We found that the devil is in the details. The Prime Minister wanted to put caps and conditions and clauses in place that would have basically undermined the promise he had made to Atlantic Canada. It was through the hard work of the provincial leadership and the population of those provinces, as well as the hard work of members in the opposition and the Leader of the Opposition that a deal was realized. Thanks should also go to our party's Atlantic caucus as well as our national caucus. It was only through the efforts of all these individuals that a deal was realized. We saw a deal more in keeping with what we felt the Prime Minister's promise would have accorded.
We now see across the country provinces that are in a similar situation. I would like to turn to the situation in Saskatchewan. I want to commend the member for Regina--Lumsden--Lake Centre for his hard work in bringing this issue forward. I also want to commend the entire Saskatchewan caucus.
We recognize the situation in Saskatchewan where more than 100% of its royalties are being clawed back. This creates a situation where Saskatchewan cannot move ahead. It creates an inequitable situation.
What we are seeking are opportunities for provinces to put in place programs that best reflect the wishes of the individuals who live in those provinces. For example, the agreement that was reached with Newfoundland and Labrador amounts to $2.6 billion. That is a significant number. In Nova Scotia it amounts to $1.1 billion.
The attitude that was taken in the past by the Liberal government was senseless and selfish. It is a big brother knows best type of attitude which says that the federal government is going to take all the revenue it can and then decide exactly how it is disbursed. The Liberals would do that instead of leaving that crucial non-renewable resource revenue in place within the province so the revenue could go toward programs within the province that would allow for economic development, sustainability, employment, and young people to stay in their home province.
It reminds us of the situation in Alberta. Alberta discovered its oil and gas in the 1940s and 1950s. It is hard for us to believe in the current context, but at the time Alberta was a have not province. From 1957 to 1965 it received transfers from the equalization program. Alberta was allowed to keep 100% of its oil royalties with no federal clawback some time after that. This has allowed Alberta to kick-start its own economy to become a have province and to become one of the economic powerhouses of North America.
The problem goes to the very way that different sides would choose to govern this country. Liberals being Liberals, they feel it always has to be the federal government that ultimately controls the purse strings. If they cannot be the ones to collect the money, then they cannot take the credit for distributing it back to the people who should rightfully have it.
We saw that in the dealings with the Atlantic provinces. There was absolute reluctance to ever enter into a deal and then once a promise was made, every effort was expended to undermine and limit that promise, to cap it, to put clauses in it to claw back. It was only through the hard work of opposition members and those provinces that we saw this realized.
Whether we live in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Alberta, New Brunswick as I do, Saskatchewan, or anywhere else, we all have the right to a better future. The future is not for members of one party or another to decide. Provinces must have more control over their own resources and destinies so that Canadians within those provinces can realize their full potential.
In my home province of New Brunswick this has been raised as an issue. We have mining and other non-renewable resources. New Brunswickers are just like the people in Saskatchewan and Canadians across the country. They are hard working. Their number one goal is to support their families and their province. It only makes sense that revenues generated in a province from these non-renewable resources should stay within that province to support the local economy.
The debate we are having today is an important one. It is important for the future of Atlantic Canada. It is important for Saskatchewan and the whole country. It is in everyone's best interest that those closest to the need are able to best utilize these non-renewable resources.
I once again congratulate my colleagues on bringing this issue forward. I ask that the Prime Minister and the finance minister consider doing what is equitable and right and allow the have not provinces that have access to non-renewable resources to use them. Allow the provinces to use them to better their economies. Allow the provinces to use them to create opportunity.
We have to get away from this mindset that Ottawa knows best and that everything must be centralized. We have to allow the local regions in the individual provinces to have better control over their own destinies. That is why I am in full support of this motion.