House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was province.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Conservative MP for St. John's South—Mount Pearl (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 45% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Fisheries and Oceans June 14th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, one of the places in our great country, which is very near and dear to my heart, is Prince Edward Island. I have spent a lot of time there dealing with the fishermen.

I have a number of letters, including three “thank you” cards, signed by hundreds of fishermen for helping them out. I even helped put some wharves in the member's riding.

The quotas were set based upon history. That is the right and proper way to do it.

Atlantic Accord June 12th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, unlike the hon. member and his colleagues who sit on the backbenches and snipe whenever they have a chance, we are the ones who do stand up for the province.

We have never denied that in our blue book as government we said to the provinces that we will take non-renewable resources out of the equalization formula if they wanted it. It was the provinces that said to us, “We do not want it. Give us a formula that is predictable, that is fair”. We gave it to them. It is called the O'Brien formula.

Business of Supply June 7th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. member, I have been around politics for a long time. I entered provincial politics in 1982. I have been involved in politics since I could walk. There was not a campaign in my riding in which I did not participate, and I ran in 98% or so of them.

I have been around, so let me say to the hon. gentleman, ever since I have been involved in politics I have served under a number of leaders. I have served under two premiers, and I have served under two or three leaders here in Ottawa. At no time did any of them ever try to dictate to me what to say or what to do. I would like to think it was because of two reasons. One, they know I am a stubborn Irishman and two, they do not have to because I try to do what is right and principled. Never has anybody told me what to do or say in this or in any other place, except maybe at home.

Business of Supply June 7th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I hesitate even to answer a question from somebody who has demonstrated clearly over the last few years that he knows absolutely nothing about what he is talking about. However, I will clarify a couple of things.

One is that I was not around before the vote to talk to anybody. I did not run up to the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley and ask him to stay. I did not discuss the issue with him at all, period. I can say to the member that I know somebody who did talk to him. It was the premier of his province who called the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley and asked him to stick with it, to make sure that Nova Scotia got the deal that we said we would deliver but for him to make sure he was there.

We have not tampered with anything. We promised the accord would not be touched. We said it would be preserved in its purity. We said it would not be capped. The member asked what we are negotiating. There is a brand new equalization formula, one that is predictable, one that is clear and transparent, one that treats every province properly. How does it relate to all provinces and what effect would it have on past agreements? That needs to be clearly pointed out and that is our job to do. It will be done. Let me again assure the member that it will not be done to the detriment of Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador.

Business of Supply June 7th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, let me answer the last question first about what we are negotiating.

People who are in the party, people who are part of it, people who can work within the system and people who know what they are doing and are willing to do it know what is going on. If I had gone across the floor, if I had gone home, I would not know what we were negotiating and I would be showing I did not care.

The budget put over $1.5 billion into Newfoundland and Labrador this year. The member voted against that. He voted against the budget. He said it is because of what it does to the Atlantic accord. I am telling him that it does nothing to the Atlantic accord that will take one cent away from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The member voted against it because it is the Liberal thing to do.

What the member also voted against in that budget, besides the possibility for pensioners to split income and what that means to the province, besides the money for education, he voted against the money for the Labrador highway, money that is in that budget that has already been committed. I committed it. That money will start a development, which the Liberals could not deliver in all the years they were in government, to pave the highway right across Labrador, $100 million, $50 million from the federal government in this budget. He voted against it.

How is the member going to explain that to his people?

Business of Supply June 7th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to speak to this motion today.

Usually when we stand to speak, we make some reference to the previous speaker. I will do that, but very briefly. I just listened to two things that the hon. Leader of the Opposition said.

He said that the Atlantic accord must be respected. I know he will have to run off as he is a busy person, but let me tell him that the Atlantic accord, in every aspect, will be respected. I do not know whether he heard me. I will say it again. The Atlantic accord will be respected.

He also said he is against the cap. Let me quote from the hon. member on two or three occasions. When asked just in March about excluding 100% of resource revenues from equalization, he said, “No, no, I would not commit to this”. He said:

--it would be ill-advised to grant such special treatment to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland or any other province...it is essential to maintain equitable treatment of all the provinces within--

He said, “Some provinces want special treatment to maintain their incoming benefits, even as their fiscal capacity increases. I disagree”. This is the Leader of the Opposition who just said he is against the cap.

He also said, “A province that receives equalization payments cannot see its fiscal capacity growing above the fiscal capacity of a province that does not”. What do we call it? We call it a cap, C-A-P.

I could go on. There are a number of other quotes and I only put that on the record to let people know how much they can rely on somebody who says he will give his word. It depends on the time, the place and the occasion, so we will dispense with that.

Let me talk about the issue at hand. Let us look at a little bit of history here. We have a situation where people opposite think that people on this side, the governing party, somehow or other are going to shaft the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.

They are hanging their hats today on the fact that, unfortunately, one of our members, a pretty good fellow and a good friend of mine, a great member, decided that he would not stay with the party and vote for the budget, that he would go across.

I say perhaps that if the gentleman had waited another few hours, if he had been privy to some of the results of some of the work that he and others of us have been doing, he would not have done that

However, the interesting thing about this is that the members opposite, strictly for political reasons as we know, but that is the name of the game and I am not saying we would not have done it had the opposite been true, are lauding the fact that somebody crossed the floor on principle.

Well, they had a member who voted for the budget, who voted against his party on principle, and he is now sitting as an independent, so that is what they think about people who stand on principle. That is the name of the political game also.

The interesting thing about it is that the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is also joining with his newly found feathered friends on the other side and lauding the fact that somebody stood up on principle and walked across the floor.

The interesting thing about this is the comparison with what his colleague, his counterpart in Nova Scotia, is saying. The Nova Scotia premier was calling the member to say, “Please do not do it, because you cannot do any good for us over there. We are working out a deal--”, unlike Newfoundland, by the way, “--with the federal government that will take care of our concerns, or at least that is our hope. We believe we can do it by working collectively. Will you stay there and work with us to make sure we get the deal?” The member did not listen. He went across.

I find it a bit hard to understand when the premier of the province affected, in this case Nova Scotia, said “stick with it boys, and let's get a good deal”, and the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador said “run across the floor, give up, come home, we don't want a deal”. He might not want a deal, but the people of Newfoundland and Labrador want a good deal, and that is what they will get.

I will give the House a bit of history here. What is this all about? If the government had not recognized the fact that there was a fiscal imbalance in the country, then we would not be here today. This would not be an issue. We recognized that there was a fiscal imbalance. The past equalization program threw a few dollars at the provinces that made the loudest noise. As all of us know, that was not very successful.

The government started talking about addressing the fiscal imbalance. In order to do that, we needed a formula that everybody would accept and buy into and one in which everybody could participate.

Leading up to the last election, our party said in our blue book that if we formed government, we would be satisfied to take 100% of the non-renewable resources out of the formula. We are not denying that. It is there in black and white in our blue book and on web pages and so on.

We did not dump that when we were elected. In the election and after the election we said that we, as government, were willing to take 100% of all non-renewable resources, and not just oil and gas, out of the equalization formula.

The equalization formula affects 10 provinces and three territories. They are affected by whatever formula Ottawa puts in place. Consequently, they will decide if this is the best formula for them collectively. Of course, each province will ask if this is the best formula for it.

The premiers met on several occasions and the finance ministers met. They could not agree on the formula. The majority of them did not want what we offered in relation to taking out 100% of all non-renewable resources.

People at home are saying that the Prime Minister broke a promise. It was not the Prime Minister; it was the party and then the government. I am not denying that. We made a commitment. We were ready and willing to do that. We did not say to the provinces that we would not do that. The provinces had a whole year to put together a formula, including what we had committed, to address the fiscal imbalance of the country. The majority of the provinces said that it would make it worse for them rather than better. They said that they needed something else.

Back several months ago, the talk about equalization and fiscal imbalance centred around the O'Brien formula. The government of the day, Liberal members opposite, initiated an independent study by highly qualified people, chaired by Mr. O'Brien, who brought forth a formula to address equalization. That became the talk of the town. Everybody, including all the premiers, realized that was probably where they were headed and they started to scramble to get the best they could out of that formula. This is all on the record. I am not it making up.

The Premier of Newfoundland made a request to the Prime Minister that the Atlantic accord be protected. The two provinces, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, had different agreements. They were not special agreements. They were not fancy side deals. They had agreements with the Government of Canada that they had worked hard for, which recognized the fact that their offshore oil and gas resources were located offshore, outside the land mass, and were supposedly controlled and owned by Canada.

Agreements were put in place to have the resources recognized, basically, as if they were onshore, that the province would be the prime beneficiary, that it would get 100% of the revenues from the developments of the offshore oil and gas.

In 1985 the original agreement was signed with the then Conservative government of Canada after the former Trudeau Liberal government had denied it for years. The minister of energy, who in Newfoundland denied it and would not give it the control of our offshore oil and gas benefits, was the former leader of the Liberal Party, Mr. Chrétien. The prime minister was Mr. Trudeau.

When the Mulroney government was elected, that deal was signed. There is a picture on my wall, if anyone wants proof, of Prime Minister Mulroney with Minister Crosbie, the regional minister, Senator Pat Carney, who was the minister of energy at the time, along with Premier Peckford from Newfoundland and the then minister of energy, Mr. Marshall. Sitting in the background with myself and others was one of the members on the other side, who is clapping his hands for a great agreement for the Conservatives.

When we moved forward, in 2005 the Williams government, led by finance minister Sullivan, negotiated some improvements to the Atlantic accord. It sounded great when the premier came home, not really cheered then by the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

The premier came down the escalator waving the cheque, and we all remember it, saying, “We got it, we got it, $2 billion”. Imagine coming into Newfoundland and Labrador with a $2 billion cheque. I would bet that members, if we did a quiz, and I would love to do a quiz, would say that the $2 billion is above and beyond, that it is great stuff.

What is was an advance on Newfoundland and Labrador's income. It is just like if you were making $20,000, Mr. Speaker, and I know you make a little more than that, not at all what you deserve for the job you are doing. I was watching the hockey game last night, as a lot of people were, and thinking about the referees. They work an hour a night, basically, and get paid a lot more than you. I think you would make a tremendous referee because a lot of them are not of physical stature to break up the rackets. With a pair of skates and a much bigger salary, you would do it.

If you, Mr. Speaker, were making $20,000 a year and somebody suddenly gave you a cheque for $200,000 and you came home waving it, everybody in the family would be delighted. However, what you did not tell them is that for the next 10 years all of your net income would go into the bank because you just got a $200,000 advance.

Newfoundland and Labrador received a $2 billion advance. That is all it got, nothing extra, nothing that did not belong to it, nothing above and beyond what it would get over time. Newfoundland and Labrador received it so it could pay down our the tremendous debt. The premier almost had a contest asking how people wanted it spent when he knew, because it is written in the agreement, it had to go toward the debt. It is all fun and games.

All of it has not been drawn down yet, but it will be over the next few years. There is still somewhere around $1 billion, or a bit less. Some people think that if anything happens such as caps the province will lose it and it will be clawed back. Absolutely not. Let me state it clearly and categorically that the advance money given to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, regardless of what happens, will not be clawed back.

Any payments the province get because of the Atlantic accords will not be capped. The accord will not be capped. The accord is protected. Write it down. Look at Hansard. Cut it out. Show it to me in five years. We will not know those things right away simply because the province is still receiving equalization money.

The unfortunate thing about it is it province is not receiving much. In our province, as we say at home, we are getting well off. We are starting to become a have province. I am proud of that. I think the members opposite are proud of that. However, as anybody knows, we cannot have our cake and eat it too. I do not think anybody is really asking for it, if they understood what this is all about. What we do not want is for something that we own, something that we were promised, something that we were given, to be taken away.

Let me assure the members it will not be taken away. How do I know that? Because I have been working on it. I have not been sitting, complaining. I have not been running around the country, yelling and screaming and complaining about Ottawa not doing anything, when I have not even asked it, when I have not met with it and when I have not negotiated. We do not get deals unless we negotiate.

This year our province is receiving $477 million in equalization. Next year we will receive only $197 million. It is not, if our economy keeps going, the year after that we will get nothing.

Why our equalization is going down is because our revenues from resource development, in particular, including the offshore oil and gas, have been going up. We have not lost any of the money. Anything we have lost in relation to the total revenues we would receive has been given to us by what we call offset payments, through the Atlantic accord, and people think this will end. It will only end when the accord fizzles out.

When the accord agreement was signed in 1985 to give us this money in lieu of clawback, in lieu of equalization losses, it was due to expire in 2011. Nobody has this by the way. It is not a bad deal and others would love to have it. The $2 billion upfront payment, which we could bring home and wave around, was an advance payment. We are not getting a cent directly from government these days in relation to offset payments. It is all kept because the government gave it to us in advance. When the advance is paid off, we will start getting real money again.

The other thing they did a couple of years ago, in 2005, is they negotiated one extra year on the length of the accord agreement. The accord now ends in 2012. What does that mean? That means that in 2012 that is it. Our province will not get any more of these offset payments, unless in one of the two previous years, 2010 or 2011, we are on equalization. If we are receiving equalization, the accord is extended until 2020. If it is, and I hope it is, we will continue to receive every benefit from that accord because we have committed, with no changes to the accord, no capping of the accord, despite what members say.

To finish, in relation to equalization, there is not a chance, according to economists, that we will be on equalization in either of these years to qualify for the accord payments, unless we go to the new formula. If we go to the new formula, because of the 10 provinces, we might then qualify. If our province does, the theory is we will be capped. The Atlantic accord will never be capped.

Questions on the Order Paper June 6th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, in response to the decision to redeploy the two icebreakers was made for financial reasons: a cost avoidance of $10 million capital expenditure on additional infrastructure for Halifax that was already in place in Newfoundland. Coast Guard must ensure it invests as much as possible in its operations in support of federal maritime priorities. An additional benefit is ongoing cost avoidance for maintenance of the additional infrastructure had it been built.

In response to (b), given that this is a straightforward transfer of home ports of the two vessels from one area to another, costs of the redeployment are expected to be minimal.

In response to (c) and (d), the CCGS Terry Fox will be redeployed to St. John's in April 2008, and the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent to Argentia in April 2009.

In response to (e), there were no specific consultations as it was an operational decision. However, this issue goes back almost 10 years and there have been a number of studies on moving the vessels.

In response to (f), an operations transition group will oversee operational and human resource aspects of the redeployment. No Coast Guard maritimes region personnel currently assigned to either of these vessels will be forced to move, nor will any indeterminate jobs be lost because of this move. Crew changes in the Arctic and elsewhere are currently managed from Halifax and this will continue throughout the transition. A period of co-crewing between the two regions will occur. The transition will take place over a five year period, with extensive consultations with crew to ensure their needs are addressed. Over time, as the existing crews leave, transfer to other vessels, or choose to move, crew members from the two icebreakers will have St. John's as their home port.

In response to (g), there is no operational need to base the two vessels in Halifax, given that their main theatre of operations is the Arctic. The full range of services will continue. Also, the vessels will be two days' steam closer to the Arctic. The vessels will continue to work as needed in the Atlantic zone as is now the case, the most recent example being the work of the Terry Fox related to the seal harvest.

The Budget June 6th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to answer the Mickey Mouse question.

First, as it relates to John Crosbie, we value the input of John Crosbie. In fact, he along with ourselves, my caucus members and the people on this side, are trying to solve the problems of our country and the problems of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We are not sitting on our hands or running around the country complaining like the hon. member or like the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are trying to solve the problem. Working collectively, we will.

Atlantic Accord June 6th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, let me remind the hon. member and the House that it was a Tory government, a Conservative government, that gave us the original Atlantic accord. Let me remind him that it was a Tory opposition that forced the Liberals, including some of them sitting there, to get the second Atlantic accord. Let me also remind him that while they are sitting, sniping from the sidelines, like the Premier of Newfoundland, we are working to deliver to our provinces.

Fisheries Act June 4th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, let me tell the hon. member what others say about the need to bring this act forth. “We cannot afford, quite frankly, to lose this new Fisheries Act” said the Liberal member for Mississauga South. “It is very simple. Bring it before the committee”, that is what committees are for, said the Liberal member for Sydney—Victoria. “With minor changes, it will be an excellent bill”, said my good friend, the Liberal member for West Nova.

We need the new act and we will get it.