Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to participate in this debate. I have listened carefully to remarks today, many of which were aimed at me. That is the slings and arrows of this place, Mr. Speaker, as you know full well having served here for so many years.
I did find myself curiously agreeing with some of the comments by my colleague from Halifax, though. She quite rightly pointed out, when she asked a question a moment ago, that the member for Halifax West could be described as somewhat of a recent convert of the Atlantic accord. During the time he filled the post as minister for Nova Scotia, the post I currently hold, he was pushing the province of Nova Scotia to accept a deal that was not in the best interest of my province.
I remember at the time the member from Halifax said, “If Nova Scotians were as wealthy as Ontarians in eight years time I don't believe they would be expected to keep getting equalization”. He said this on October 26. This was in advance of the Atlantic accord being signed. He also urged the minister of energy at the time, Cecil Clarke, to accept the deal, that it was an excellent deal for Nova Scotia. Yet the numbers now clearly show that at the time the offer that was put forward by the member from Halifax was for $640 million. We know the final deal that was arrived at with Nova Scotia was for $830 million. Therefore, he was bargaining hard for his province, my province, to take hundreds of millions of dollars less than it actually achieved.
This is what he had to say at the time, “I can't imagine for the life of me why Nova Scotia would not accept a deal this rich”. In October 2004 he told the Halifax ChronicleHerald, “They're turning up their noses at an excellent offer. I really can't understand why they're not agreeing to it and why they're so hung up on this question of eight years”.
The member can be here today and sanctimoniously hold himself out as a champion of this cause, but at the end of the day he really had to be brought on side by the pushing and prodding of the premier of the day, John Hamm, as has been mentioned, who truly was the champion of the Atlantic accord, along with Cecil Clarke, the energy minister.
He and the member for LaSalle—Émard, the Liberal leader and prime minister at that time, and the member for West Nova all voted against the motion in the House recognizing the Atlantic accord, all recognizing at that time that Nova Scotia should be the primary beneficiary of offshore oil and gas revenues. That is what they did. On November 15, 2004, I was here as were you, Mr. Speaker. There was a motion before the House that you and I both supported. They voted against it. Every member in the Liberal Party who has spoken today, with the exception perhaps of the not so newly elected member, who was not here in 2004, voted against the Atlantic accord.
Therefore, I will not take any lessons or any sanctimonious, disingenuous, holding themselves out as champions.
This is really about, when we strip away the rhetorical flourish, when we take away some of the contrasting views of a contract and when we strip away the discussion of what this comes down to, it is about equalization for the country, an offshore oil and gas revenue deal that was put in place to insist that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador in a similar vein receive primary benefits of their offshore oil and gas.
People have talked about special deals. This is not a special deal. This is the same sort of deal, others have mentioned this, historically in the context as Alberta enjoys with respect to their underground oil and gas. The Auto Pact could be singled out for the province of Ontario as something specific to it. Quebec has similar deals, one in fact that affects Newfoundland and Labrador, which is quite contentious. That is of course Churchill Falls.
Therefore, this is about ensuring fairness. That is exactly what we intend to do. The budget is exactly about that. Liberals have repeatedly refused in the past to recognize accords such as this.
The bill itself, when it finally came to fruition, when it finally came before the House, put in place a recognition of natural gas revenues that were to come to the province of Nova Scotia.
Fast forward to what we have in the budget. After 13 years of the Liberal government denying that there was fiscal imbalance in the country, our government immediately upon taking office, under the leadership of the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister, went about consultation with the provinces to see that fiscal imbalance did exist. A lengthy, indepth and complex discussion took place about how we set the fiscal imbalance right.
I am a member from Nova Scotia. That is my home, that is where I was born and raised and that is where I will retire. I will always be there. The member opposite, who is also from my home province, can try to beat his chest, put on floppy shoes and a red hat and try to be clown, but that is not going to get him anywhere. People at home know this is a serious issue. If he wants to make it personal, that is fine, that is his right. He can continue in that vein.
We are here to talk about a serious issue. This is a serious issue that affects my province. It affects very much the well-being and the future of the province of Nova Scotia. That is why I have undertaken to continue in the same vein as the finance minister, to meet directly with the Premier of Nova Scotia, the premier who is now charged with protecting Nova Scotia's interests, as do I. I stand shoulder to shoulder with him in that exercise.
We met this morning and we have spoken in the past repeatedly, since the budget came down, about how we protect Nova Scotia's interests and how we do so together. That is exactly what we are doing.
This is very much about clarifying our commitment with respect to the Atlantic accord. This is about ensuring the implementation of the new O'Brien equalization formula, which is the option for which Nova Scotia has opted. This formula benefits my home province to the extent of $95 million more. That allows us to put more money into education, infrastructure, health, all sorts of important life altering and quality of life aspects. It has allowed Premier MacDonald and the provincial government make those investments.
With regard to some of the apocalyptical discussion here about how Nova Scotia was going to be forced into financial ruin, the budget provides Nova Scotia with $2.4 billion in the year 2007-08, $130 million in offshore accord offsets, $639 million in Canada health transfers, $277 million in Canada social transfers with respect to post-secondary education and child care and the list goes on. Millions of dollars are going into the Nova Scotia economy. All of that is buttressed with an additional $95 million that is coming from the federal government this year. That is what members opposite are voting against.
I should have indicated at the start, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton—Spruce Grove, who is the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. She will be giving a riveting speech, as she has in the past, with respect to how the province of Alberta is very much in concert with the province of Nova Scotia on the recognition of offshore oil and gas revenues. She, as do all members of the Conservative caucus, wants to see that Nova Scotia is treated fairly. They want to know that we will be treated the same way in Atlantic Canada as the west was during the period in time it was developing its natural resources.
This is all about that. The offshore oil and gas revenue stream is protected, it is intact and it is whole. That is the intent and the spirit of what has taken place. That was the commitment that was given by the Prime Minister. He said that no province would be worse off after this equalization formula was in place. That is what he intends, and that will happen.
I want to acknowledge my colleague opposite, the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, who has been a long-serving member of this place, a hard-working member here in Ottawa and in his constituency. He is a well respected friend, and I say that with great earnest. I feel very badly for the position he finds himself in because he is sincere and pure of heart in what he believes he has done. What is unfortunate is he is not among us. He is not here now to continue these discussions on behalf of the government in dealing directly with the province of Nova Scotia.
Our colleagues from St. John's, our colleagues from New Brunswick, our colleagues from Newfoundland and Labrador, have been closely involved and work diligently to see that Atlantic Canada is treated fairly, that their provinces are treated fairly and that they receive a fair share of equalization and a fair share of offshore oil and gas revenue.
For the people of Nova Scotia, that is the critical issue. We can talk about caps and O'Brien formulas, and changes to the offshore and transfers. What they know and what they need to know is that, as a result of this budget, my province, the province of Nova Scotia, will receive $95 million more than it did last year.
That has allowed my home province to balance the budget this year and to move forward on other important projects. We will continue to work with it, as we did with ecotrust announcements, as we did with health arrangements, and as we continue to work toward an important infrastructure deal as regards to transportation and ports in the province of Nova Scotia.
I am committed to that. No one has to remind me of my obligations or responsibilities to the people of Central Nova and the people of Nova Scotia whom I represent. I am here every day working to the best of my ability, as I am at home when this place is not in session. These are in addition to my cabinet responsibilities.
The members opposite have their views on this. What I know is that I have been working in a very productive and positive way with the premier of Nova Scotia. He continues, of course, to stand up for and bring a very positive and patient attitude to this discussion, and to that extent, I want to thank--