Mr. Speaker, when I finished my first 10 minutes I was going through the contradictions in the ongoing discussions about the Atlantic accords and the different things that came up that confused Nova Scotians and Newfoundlanders about the approach that the government has about the Atlantic accords and the fact that it just took them away.
In case there is any question about the accords being taken away, I would like to read from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, an independent think tank, that said:
The new program also reverses a pre-election commitment to exclude natural resource revenues, and includes 50% of these revenues.
It goes on to say:
The protection provided by the Accords is undermined.... In the authors’ view, this violates both the letter and the spirit of the Accord.
Just today the Premier of Newfoundland said:
Essentially, we are being railroaded into an untenable situation whereby we are forced to choose the O’Brien formula....
In the mail-out that he sent around to every Nova Scotian, Premier MacDonald said:
That budget effectively ripped up our Offshore Accord and all of the opportunities it is expected to bring to Nova Scotians.
Also in the mail-out, Premier MacDonald called on all Nova Scotians to join him and sign a petition “demanding that Ottawa honour the Offshore Accord and all agreements it signs with any province or territory”.
We would not think we would need to have a petition to get the Government of Canada to honour a signed agreement with anyone, whether it is a province, another country, a business person or a single person. However, the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia felt compelled to call on Canadians, and Nova Scotians in particular, to sign a petition demanding that the government honour signed agreements.
We now have an agreement with Nova Scotia but it is not the Atlantic accord as requested in the petition that the Premier of Nova Scotia asked for.
I want to go on to another bit of confusion. I want to point out that when the Prime Minister came to Nova Scotia in 2005 he was very supportive of the Atlantic accords. I want to read a couple of things he said. In the Halifax Sunday Herald of February 6, he said:
...it was Mr. Hamm's leadership that brought home the agreement, which he described as the best opportunity Nova Scotia had in 138 years.
Why would he say that and then take it away? That is confusing to a lot of people.
The Prime Minister went on to say that the accords were “courageous and visionary”. I do not understand how he could say that and now the government refers to the accords as double-dipping, cherry-picking and double-stacking.
I do not know how one goes from courageous and visionary to double-dipping, double-stacking and cherry-picking, but somehow the exact same agreements, which were at one time, in the Prime Minister's view, courageous and visionary, are now double-dipping, double-stacking and cherry-picking.
It is confusing for the people of Nova Scotia to wonder how the Prime Minister and the government could zig and zag on this very issue.
When the government decided to break the Atlantic accord, it gave two reasons. One was that it wanted to have a single, principled base equalization formula for the whole country. It has done exactly the opposite with Bill C-28.
In Bill C-28, the government established an equalization formula for two provinces and a different one for eight provinces. Two provinces have a 3.5% escalator clause until 2020. Eight do not have that escalator clause. Two provinces have an agreement that goes to 2020. Eight provinces have an agreement that goes to 2013. The government has created exactly what the Prime Minister said he would not do.
I want to again read part 11 in Bill C-28, which states:
Part 11 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to provide for an additional fiscal equalization payment that may be paid to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Previously the Atlantic accord was not an equalization payment. It was an offset payment, but now the government has established a different equalization formula, which seems to me to totally contradict the goal of the Prime Minister in establishing one equalization formula because now we do have two formulas. The ironic thing is that when we had the Atlantic accord and the O'Brien formula we had one equalization formula, which is exactly what he said he wanted.
The other goal was to eliminate any side deals. I do not know how we would describe the side deals in Bill C-28, but it is full of side deals as far as the accord goes. One is that two provinces would get the 3.5% escalator until 2020 and the other one is that at the end of each year the federal government may pay Nova Scotia an amount of money each year if the parallel calculation is more than the O'Brien formula. Each one of those is a side deal for each year.
That is the reason I will be voting against Bill C-28. I voted against it before and I will be voting against it again.
I am not arguing that the province of Nova Scotia has negotiated a new deal, and it may be a good deal, but we do not know because we have never seen the projections. Senators, members of Parliament and the media have asked for the projections to confirm what the government says when it says that the new deal is good for Nova Scotia.
We had the provincial projections but we have never had the federal projections. If any of the Conservative members do stand up I hope they will table the projections so we will know whether it is a good deal for Nova Scotia, not based on the federal government.
Officials have told us that they have done their projections. They have done the best case scenario and the worst case scenario, but as yet we have not been able to get them to share those projections with us so we can share their enthusiasm for this program if it is accurate. However, we do not know because we do not have the projections.
I will close my remarks with that but I will say that the Atlantic accord is still in effect. It is a two-page agreement and it is still there. It is just that the government has chosen not to honour or respect it and it has chosen to take a different route. It is a shame. It is a two-page agreement, nine paragraphs long and the Conservatives have decided to break the deal and not honour it. They have tried to come up three alternatives now, none of which are the Atlantic accord. That is why I will be voting against Bill C-28.