Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time with the member for Edmonton—Spruce Grove.
I am pleased to join the debate on our supply day motion. I have some interest in the topic, having worked at some length to develop our position on non-renewable resources and equalization in Atlantic Canada leading up to the last election.
Even if I am patting myself on the back to some degree, I think we had a sound policy. We took that policy to Atlantic Canada and presented it to Atlantic Canadians. I believe it found considerable acceptance in Atlantic Canada and in Newfoundland and Labrador.
I would suggest that was one of the reasons that in the middle of a failing federal election campaign the Prime Minister went to Atlantic Canada and made the promise that he did to guarantee 100% of resource royalties to those provinces, without obviously a well thought out plan. If he had had the plan, he would have presented it to Atlantic Canadians at the time and this debate would have been taking place in the middle of an election, not after the election and after the seats had been decided.
That is what the supply day motion is about. I listened carefully to the presentation by the member from the Bloc. Indeed he was going down a slippery slope. If we get into the issue of equalization and whether or not it is fair, I think there are a number of fundamental problems with equalization. The clawback of resource royalties is only one of them. There are others, such as how equalization affects tax decisions in provinces. I think back to those problems.
I remember the huge ore deposit that was discovered in Labrador some years ago. Brian Tobin, a former fisheries minister was the Premier of Newfoundland. He decided to stop development of that ore body until Newfoundland and Labrador got the kind of deal it wanted out of the company proposing to develop it. I believe it was Inco.
The premier at the time knew full well what he was doing simply because there was no incentive to develop that ore body. Had he done that under the same problem that we are talking about here today, the clawback of royalties for oil and gas, the federal government would have clawed back the royalties on the development of that ore body.
This problem is wider than offshore oil. The whole issue goes back many years.
As my leader pointed out this morning, there was a time when Alberta was a have not province. The federal government at the time resisted with everything it had to allow Alberta to keep 100% of its resource wealth. Today Alberta has become one of the wealthiest provinces in Canada. Even after it had control of its natural resources and 100% of the royalties, we all remember the national energy program and the grab of resource revenue that was.
This issue goes away back, as does the issue that is fundamental to this, which is the practice during elections of people making promises which they have no intention to keep. That goes back forever. It has been a long Liberal practice in particular, I would suggest.
I remember the Joe Clark government being defeated over an excise tax on gasoline. Prime Minister Trudeau came in and put a heavier tax on gasoline than Joe Clark would have done, in spite of the fact that Trudeau won the election promising not to tax gasoline.
There is the example of wage and price controls. The Liberals promised that they would not implement them. They defeated the Tories on that basis and went ahead and implemented them anyway.
The one we all remember so well was the GST promise. The prime minister had no intention of ever getting rid of the GST and as a result, the deputy prime minister, who had promised her constituents that her government would get rid of the GST, had to resign to show good faith. Her resignation forced a byelection at some considerable expense because the government invested so heavily in her riding to make sure that she was re-elected. It really was a bit of a joke.
Getting back to the equalization formula, I think in response to some of the comments that I heard earlier, removing non-renewable natural resources from the formula does not affect Alberta one way or the other because Alberta does not receive equalization payments. However it would be fundamentally fair to Atlantic Canada to keep 100% of its resource royalties because that is fair.
It would also be fair, in my opinion, in response to the member from the Bloc Québécois who spoke, that renewable resource revenue that is sheltered in crown corporations should also be part of the formula to calculate equalization. Some provinces have a substantial revenue stream from renewable natural resources that in fact will last in perpetuity because they are renewable, whereas the provinces that are now using their non-renewable natural resource royalties in the formula are selling a capital asset that belongs to them in order to kick start their economies. However those natural resources are finite and they will run out one day.
Provinces have to think very carefully when they sell that capital asset and plan very carefully for the day that it is no longer there. I think that is where there is some fundamental unfairness in the formula that includes royalties from those capital assets that they choose to sell in the formula. Certainly by removing them from the formula would not make Alberta a have not province simply because Alberta's economy is doing so well based on the development of its natural resources and it creates great tax wealth for the federal government and for the province. It also stimulates the economy to the point where even if those royalties that are going directly to the province were not calculated into the equalization formula, Alberta would still be a have province.
However removing non-renewable natural resources from the formula would be of great help to other provinces, particularly Saskatchewan, which is one of Canada's have not provinces. I am surprised that in the current round of negotiations the Premier of Saskatchewan is not standing up beside the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador demanding the same thing. Saskatchewan has a fair amount of non-renewable natural resources. It is one of the calculations that would help it very much if those resource royalties were removed from the formula. Of course, there are some other provinces as well that would benefit, including British Columbia and Manitoba.
To get into whether equalization is fair or not fair is not the issue that we are debating today. The issue is very simple and very fundamental in that it is about the practice of making promises during an election campaign that one does not intend to keep. Just today in question period the Minister of National Defence got up and piously promised he would never make irresponsible promises.
I think he should talk to his Prime Minister and other members of his party when they develop these election platforms because a lot of promises were made in the last election and many elections leading up to the last election that were clearly made to attract votes and get elected, but the intention was never there to fulfil those promises. That gives us all a bad name and it gives the House a bad name in my view.
I think we should be more careful. We should cost out those election promises and we should make them on the basis that whichever party forms the government it is prepared to fulfil those promises in the mandate that it has been given. I think we should focus on what this is really about.