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House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was scotia.

Topics

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

March 22nd, 2007 / 10:20 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

moved:

That this House regret that the party now forming the government has abandoned the principles respecting the Atlantic Accords, equalization and non-renewable resource revenues as articulated in the motion it put before the House on Tuesday, March 22, 2005.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending March 26, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bills. In view of recent practices, do hon. members agree that the bills be distributed now?

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride and honour that I stand today to represent not only my constituents but all those of Newfoundland and Labrador and all those of the country for which I consider to be a grave injustice that has been served upon this country and certainly upon our neck of the woods, as they say, which would be Newfoundland and Labrador.

Today's motion states:

That this House regret that the party now forming the government has abandoned the principles respecting the Atlantic Accords, equalization and non-renewable resource revenues as articulated in the motion it put before the House on Tuesday, March 22, 2005.

The motion that was put forward by the Conservatives at the time read:

That the House call upon the government to immediately extend the expanded benefits of the...Atlantic Accord to all of the provinces...revenues severely curtails the future prosperity of Canada by punishing the regions where the economy is built on a non-renewable resource base.

The point of all this is very clear, which is to ask the Conservatives at what point they will start practising what they used to preach.

This a point that is an ultimate deception to the Canadian public. This is a point that they have made time and time again, not just in the last election but in the one prior to that as well. It is one that allowed our provinces, many of which rely heavily on non-renewable resources, to become principal beneficiaries of their own resources, which is to say that it gives them a sense of ownership, a sense of pride and a sense of hope for their future.

A few years back, we instituted the Atlantic accords which provided two provinces, Newfoundland land Labrador and Nova Scotia, with the ability to maintain and remain principal beneficiaries of their own resources. In doing that, they have provided offset payments and it has shielded them from clawbacks made in the equalization program. It was a promise that was made, negotiated and delivered.

However, during the last campaign and all the rhetoric that was made during the campaign, the Conservatives said that they would do one better. They said that they would provide the province of Newfoundland and Labrador with the ability to bring about $200 million per year. With that they would have added on to the current agreement with the Atlantic accords. What they had promised to do was to take non-renewables out of the formula. Throughout this day we will be making the points very clear.

I want to congratulate my colleagues from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia and the rest of the country for joining me here. I would also like to honour my colleague, the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River in northern Saskatchewan for seconding the motion.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague, the member for Halifax West.

First I would like to address the budget directly. The budget talks about the exclusion clause and states:

As a result, the O’Brien formula provides both a substantial incentive to provinces to develop their natural resources and higher payments to most provinces than one that fully excludes non-renewable resources.

The attempt was made within the budget but what the government tried to do through the front door, it took away from the back. A promise was made and a promise was broken. Here is the essential element of this particular budget that outlines that.

Budget 2007 proposed to implement the recommendations of the O'Brien report. Basically it took it all. One item that is particularly alarming and basically negates the commitment that was made is the following:

--a fiscal capacity cap to ensure that Equalization payments do not unfairly bring a receiving province’s total fiscal capacity to a level higher than that of any non-receiving province.

I would like to illustrate something that was distributed within Newfoundland and Labrador during the last election. The Conservatives had written every Newfoundlander and Labradorian and had told them quite simply that there was no greater fraud than a promise not kept.

Here is what the Conservatives said:

That's why we would leave you with 100% of your oil and gas revenues. No small print. No excuses. No caps.

Here we are a year later and the cap is right here within this budget. A promise made and now a promise broken.

The injustice that we are debating here today is one that is of prime importance. I want to illustrate the lengths to which the government will go to get elected, to get seats and to be absolutely deceptive in all ways, shape and form. This is the crux of it for us in our province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Danny Williams, had written every leader asking for certain commitments and intentions of how they would govern the country. He asked about the equalization formula and the response from the then leader of the opposition and the now Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party was that his government would remove non-renewable natural resource revenue from the equalization formula to encourage the development of economic growth in the non-renewable resource sectors across Canada.

That does not say anything about a cap. It does not say anything about going to either the old system or staying on the new system.

Interestingly enough, in the last budget the Minister of Finance had said that side deals with provinces undermine the principles of equalization.

Let us try to follow the logic here. They were saying to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia that they could either go to the new system or stay on the old system but for every other province and territory they need to go to the new system.

If that is the case, if Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia decide to stay in the old system, we have the same situation: two provinces now under a different equalization formula; a side deal supported by this party after saying unequivocally that side deals undermine the principles of equalization. It is one step forward, two steps backward.

Let us go to the deception once more. The following are some of the headlines in recent days from the moves made by this budget and the Conservatives' idea of fixing the fiscal imbalance and answering some of the concerns of the Newfoundland premier.

“N.S. to take big hit in program funding if it opts out of new federal formula”, is the headling from the Newswire in Halifax. Another headline is “Tory MP accuses Saskatchewan premier of lying as government defends budget”. Not only have the Conservatives deceived them, they are attacking them for saying to them “Where is your commitment?” Not only have they abandoned the premiers, they now have decided to victimize them as well.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

An hon. member

Shame.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Yes, shame, indeed. Every one of them, especially in Atlantic Canada.

I will say this in the House right now, and I am sure they know it and we know it, hell hath no fury like a Danny Williams scorned.

What they say to me is that maybe the premier does this all the time and that maybe he likes to use theatrics. However, I can tell members that Mr. Williams holds in his hand a commitment. Is he mad? Yes, he is. Does he have a right to be? Yes, he does. This was a blatant deception.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

No, he doesn't.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

My hon. colleague across the way yells “No, he doesn't”. Yes, he does. He illustrates my example that all they are doing is trying to victimize a man who is only saying that the Conservatives made a written commitment and now they are saying it is over. The $200 million that they pledged in extras is gone, and deceptively.

Let me just illustrate some of the deceptions. Talking about the cap, two years ago the current Prime Minister said that the Ontario clause effectively gutted the commitment made to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador during the election campaign. That is an absolute shame.

Shame. That is an absolute shame.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

A shame? We gave them more money.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

My hon. colleague says it was more money. I would like to point out to my hon. colleague that it is zero. The choice is either to take what we have now, which we got from the Liberal government, or take from the Conservative government, which is even less.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my comments, I also want to congratulate members opposite for reading some of the Conservative literature, which they have. I know the staff photographers will have wonderful photos. I am pleased to see that finally at least some of them have seen the light and are reading the story that real Canadians truly understand.

I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's comments, but what I cannot understand is the fact that on one hand he is saying there is a deception and in the same breath he says--

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Halton on a point of order.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Garth Turner Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like my hon. colleague to qualify the statement he just made. He said that “real Canadians” will understand the literature that has been distributed. As opposed to what? Are people on this side of the House not real Canadians? Do we perhaps care more for Taliban prisoners than we do for Canadian troops--

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I have a feeling that was more a matter of debate than a point of order.

The parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, the point I was making is on that one hand the hon. member says there was a massive deception perpetrated upon the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, but on the other hand he said they have the option of keeping the same deal they signed under the former Liberal administration or opting into a new one. There is no deception. The deal has not changed. There is no cap placed upon the Atlantic accord, the deal that was signed previously.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

An hon. member

I thought Danny Williams said there was a cap.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

He did say there was a cap. Premier Williams said there was a cap, but obviously he is wrong, as is the member opposite. There is no cap.

My question for the hon. member is this. How can he stand in the House and say there is a cap placed upon the Atlantic accord signed by the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia when in fact there is not? Has he not understood the equalization formula?

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, am I speaking in a language that is not being understood? This literature I have is the literature that was sent to Newfoundland and Labrador.

I have the commitment here. Maybe I should talk about the commitment that was made to the entire country, not just Newfoundland and Labrador, as was portrayed here. It states: “There is no greater fraud than a promise not kept”.

Let me read that literature again, as I did in my speech. Maybe it will sink in with the hon. member at this point. These are the words of the hon. member's party:

That's why we would leave you with 100% of your oil and gas revenues. No small print. No excuses. No caps.

In other words, that says “we are going to give them this new deal which caps it or we will leave them with the old deal”. What the Conservatives are saying to us is that they have absolutely deceived us, because the Conservatives were supposed to take 100% of non-renewables out of the equation, with no hindrances and no caps. That is not the promise they made. That was our promise, signed, sealed and delivered.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague's remarks, but I never heard him say how he and his party would change this or what it would do differently. That is very interesting, because if they are not planning on doing anything differently or making the changes that Mr. Williams has requested, they should say so. If they are not planning to make any changes to this, they are in fact endorsing it, and their actions are speaking louder than their words.

Therefore, my question for my hon. friend is this. What specific changes would they make to the equalization formula? What is the commitment he is making now? If he is not committing to any changes, he should quit criticizing because he has, by his actions, endorsed these changes in this budget.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, l would comment by saying this. Perhaps the hon. member was not around on February 14 a few years ago when we signed the deal. The whole principle of this was that we would protect clawbacks in equalization. Therein lies the basic principle. We said we would do this and we did it, as Premier Williams has said, time and time again.

The Conservatives said they would one-up that. “We're going to do you better,” they said, and take out non-renewables without any hindrances, yet there is a major hindrance. They are taking away this money.

As a matter of fact, the hon. member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre said this on January 17:

--[it] would result, of course, in Saskatchewan retaining 100 per cent of its oil and gas revenues...Saskatchewan would be in the neighbourhood of two to two-and-a-half billion dollars wealthier....

This is nowhere near that amount. He called it “very significant” for Saskatchewan, but yet he got nowhere near that amount.

Let me say for the hon. members from Saskatchewan that they should read what was done, and what was signed and delivered, and read their own promise, which was not fulfilled.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, as a proud Nova Scotian, I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate.

February 14, 2005 was a great day for Nova Scotia. I was proud to be in Halifax that day, signing an accord on behalf of the Government of Canada, an accord that gave Nova Scotia $830 million upfront and a guarantee that it would be protected in future equalization programs.

It marked a new beginning for Nova Scotia.

But this past Monday, budget day, was a dark day for my province. It was a day of deceit, duplicity and betrayal.

Today we are asking why the Prime Minister has not lived up to the promises he made during the last election. Why is he attacking the integrity of the offshore accords?

This debate is about examining what Conservatives say to get elected and what they do when they are in power. It is about how mighty the words of Nova Scotia's Conservative MPs were then and how meek their actions are now.

Here is how the current Prime Minister explained the issue on November 4, 2004:

This is an opportunity and it is a one-time opportunity. It is a short term opportunity to allow these provinces to kick-start their economic development, to get out of have not status....

That is how he described the issue as opposition leader, but now he is showing his true colours. Now he is proving that he cannot be trusted.

Danny Williams thought he could trust him, but now the Progressive Conservative premier of Newfoundland and Labrador says the Prime Minister has betrayed his province. He sees a pattern of breaking commitments. He says:

This is the same prime minister who basically reneged on money for women, for literacy groups, for volunteers, students, minority rights, has not lived up to the Kyoto accord, for aboriginal people.

These are not my words. They are the words of a PC premier. It is a pattern of broken promises.

Rodney MacDonald thought he could trust the Prime Minister, but now Nova Scotia's PC premier says the federal budget forces Nova Scotia into a “fundamentally unfair” choice between cash today and rights to offshore oil and gas tomorrow. “Making that choice would be to roll the dice,” he said.

Conservative members from Newfoundland are admitting the government has effectively broken its word. VOCM Radio reports that the Conservative member for Avalon says he “lobbied to have non-renewable natural resources taken out of the equalization formula”, but the decisions are made.

Opposition Motion--EqualizationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

An hon member

He failed.