That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Finance that it divide Bill C-43, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, into two bills: Bill C-43A, An Act to implement the Canada — Newfoundland and Labrador Arrangement and the Canada — Nova Scotia Arrangement and Bill C-43B, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005; that Bill C-43A be composed of Part 12 (the Canada — Newfoundland and Labrador Arrangement and the Canada — Nova Scotia Arrangement); that Bill C-43B be composed of all remaining Parts of Bill C-43; that the House order the printing of Bills C-43A and C-43B; that the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel be authorized to make such technical changes or corrections as may be necessary to give effect to this motion; and that Bill C-43A be reported back to the House no later than two sitting days after the adoption of this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.
This is an issue that has been before the House on several occasions recently. I will give members just a short bit of history. Three or four years ago, I, along with others, kept pushing government to offer the provinces of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia a better deal in relation to the revenues they get from offshore development. It culminated during the last election campaign, when our party made a solid commitment in writing to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and to the province of Nova Scotia that should we form the government we would make sure that they would get 100% of their share of revenues from the offshore development.
The government opposite matched that commitment, won the election and now is in the process of delivering. However, in the interim, it was like pulling teeth to get even to where we are today, and we still have a way to go. Once the election was won, the government backed off on its commitment to the people of the Atlantic provinces. Day after day in this honourable place, members of this side of the House constantly questioned and pushed the government to deliver on its promise.
Finally, after being embarrassed by the opposition and by the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, the government signed an agreement. For instance, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador had to walk out of meetings and had to order flags be taken down from provincial buildings. It was not easy to do, but it had to be shown to the country how important this issue was and how little regard was being paid not only to the needs of the provinces but to promises actually made by the government opposite.
Finally, on Valentine's Day, and I am not sure if there is a significance to that, everyone sort of kissed and made up and signed an agreement. That was over three months ago and the government was still hedging on bringing forth legislation. The bill is contained in a two page document, so it is not anything substantive. This went on and on. Finally, when the bill was presented it was part of an omnibus bill and was included with 23 other pieces of legislation.
Any bill of that complexity, especially if some of these pieces of legislation are ones which will cause concern to members of the opposition or members generally in the House if they are concerned about how we spend our money in this country, which we know members opposite do not worry too much about, is a very lengthy process.
We immediately asked for single stand-alone legislation. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador asked for stand-alone legislation. The province of Nova Scotia asked for stand-alone legislation. The government said, “No, the bill is in Bill C-43 and we will deal with it in totality”. Then we asked if the Liberals would split the bill; if they would take out the section pertaining to the Atlantic accord provisions and the funding arrangements for both provinces and deal with that separately so the money could flow.
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is losing $3 million for every week this drags on. We asked that the accord be taken out. We asked that the bill be split. The Prime Minister, in responding to one of my questions, said that he could only do it with unanimous consent from the House. We asked for unanimous consent, we being the leader of the Conservative Party, seconded by the leader of the NDP, actually, whose members have supported this solidly throughout.
The government refused, but instead of taking the blame, it blamed the Bloc for objecting. After a few days we asked again that the government split the bill, this time with unanimous consent from every opposition member in the House. The government refused again.
Finally the budget came and the budget was passed, again with a huge majority thanks to the members of this party. That was because of how important one issue in particular is; it is not that we were in love with all 24 clauses in the budget, but certainly because that one issue is so important to the Atlantic provinces. Around this commitment hinges the future of Newfoundland and Labrador and, to some extent at least, that of the province of Nova Scotia.
The budget passed and now the bill has been referred to committee. The committee now has to deal with 24 clauses, along with a second piece of associated legislation, Bill C-48, the bill brought in to legitimize the buyout of the NDP.
Mr. Speaker, you and I have been around long enough to know that 25 pieces of legislation take time to go through any process, especially if the legislation is complex. We are within days of closing for the summer. If this bill is not passed through this facility, then it drags on into the fall. With other issues coming up heaven knows how long it would take and at $3 million a week we just cannot afford it.
Now that the budget has passed and now that the bill is in committee there is no reason at all why the government cannot ask committee, which is why we presented the motion, to have part 12 sent back here to be dealt with as a stand-alone bill so that the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia can have their money flowing before any other complexities set in that would further drag out the approval of this legislation.