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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I realize some people would think that this belongs in the Atlantic section, but it's national affairs and involves Saskatchewan as well.. a few recent (today) articles:


JENNIFER DITCHBURN - THE CANADIAN PRESS
The Daily News

The prime minister who promised a better federal relationship with the provinces is now facing a political war with three premiers, spreading discontent within his Atlantic caucus and a Senate revolt.

Stephen Harper responded yesterday to the latest salvos from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan over oil and gas revenues by challenging the provinces to meet him in court.

At the same time, another showdown was brewing with one of his own Conservative MPs over the issue. South Shore-St. Margarets MP Gerald Keddy told The Canadian Press he was heading from his riding to a meeting with Harper to discuss the handling of the Atlantic accords dispute.

His colleague, Bill Casey, was booted from the Tory caucus last week. The Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP voted against the federal budget implementation bill and accused Harper of breaking a promise to exclude resource revenues from the federal equalization formula.

"We're between a rock and a hard place," said Keddy, who just returned from a trip to Scotland.

The Conservatives plan to move a motion today morning to limit debate on the implementation bill, a government official said late yesterday. A final budget vote in the House of Commons could come as early as this evening. The bill would then go to the Senate.

The government says it must have final passage by the end of June, but one senator says that won't happen.

"Will it be done by the 30th? No," said Nova Scotia Senator Terry Mercer.

"You'll find senators are prepared to meet well beyond June 30 on the affairs of state that need to be discussed and if the budget is one of those things, so be it."

Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald is urging all MPs from his province to vote against the budget bill.

The other remaining Tory Nova Scotia MP, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, bypassed reporters yesterday.

MacDonald argues that Harper is breaking the 2005 Canada-Nova Scotia accord on natural gas revenues that ensured the province would keep those dollars without a clawback of equalization payments.

The budget offers the provinces a choice between that deal, or receiving a fatter equalization payment with a clawback.

Harper took umbrage with the suggestion he is not respecting the accords, which are binding contracts.

"If you're really serious in the allegation we've broken a contract, then I think that you have to follow that allegation up with action," he said.

"I don't think you can just make that allegation and walk away.

"At some point we'll consult tribunals ourselves to get a ruling on our respect for the contracts, because we will respect them."

A spokeswoman for Harper would not elaborate on how the federal government would consult. Carolyn Stewart Olsen said the Atlantic accords themselves would be the document studied in court, not the contentious budget bill.

Nova Scotia had been negotiating with Ottawa to try to reach a compromise in the dispute, but MacDonald angrily called off the talks on the weekend.

The "straw that broke the camel's back," according to MacDonald, was a letter from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty published in The Chronicle-Herald on Saturday. Flaherty called the budget criticism an "urban myth," and said no "side deals" would be struck with any province.

Keddy said he was "shocked" at Flaherty's letter.

"I don't know if it's his comments honestly, or it's (Harper communications director) Sandra Buckler's comments," Keddy said.

"It doesn't matter who wrote them, his name's attached to them and I was shocked to hear them, because we've been negotiating in good faith and it'll be interesting to see what happens.

"I'm not going to make any decisions until I get a chance to talk to the prime minister."

Keddy said it wasn't his understanding of the Atlantic accords that Nova Scotia would be forced to choose between them and the new equalization formula.

MacDonald made no mention of taking the federal government to court, as Harper has suggested he should do, but said there is another tribunal the federal government should be concerned about.

"The court of public opinion is where I'm at now, and very clearly it's time for the politicians to open their eyes, open their ears and do the right thing."

MacDonald will be in Ottawa today to meet with opposition leaders, MPs and senators on the accords. He wants them to delay or derail the budget bill.

Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, who has been battling Harper for several months over the issue, made it clear yesterday he wants Harper's Conservatives gone.

"To go on into the courts and to deal with that on an extended basis, that's not the answer," Williams said.

"There's going to be a federal election before there'll be a Supreme Court of Canada decision, and that's my goal."

Saskatchewan has already made noises about taking the federal government to court over perceived promises it made to remove oil revenues from the equalization formula. Government Relations Minister Harry Van Mulligen said Harper is taking a belligerent attitude.

"It's Mr. Harper's tone that if you don't like it lump it ... and take us to court and so on - that is no way to run a country."

A recent poll in Atlantic Canada suggested Harper's approval rating has dropped from 50 per cent in February to 39 per cent in May, before Casey was removed from caucus.

Nova Scotia and Newfoundland both argue that the accords are based on whatever equalization formula is being used in a particular year, and should apply to the new formula the Conservatives put into their 2007 budget.

The growing Atlantic crisis around Harper was embraced warmly by opposition MPs yesterday.

Liberal Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison, who was once a Progressive Conservative alongside Casey, Keddy and MacKay, said the situation is a sign of a darker plan.

"He is simply trying to cleanse his party of progressive conservatism, and frankly he is succeeding in eliminating the Progressive Conservative element from its traditional base in Atlantic Canada."
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
N.S. premier takes fight with Harper in Ottawa 1
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The Canadian Press


OTTAWA (CP) - The premiers of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland kept up their attacks on Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday as MPs prepared for a final vote on the federal budget - a document the Atlantic premiers have denounced as a betrayal.

Nova Scotia's Rodney MacDonald took his fight over offshore energy revenues to Ottawa, where he was to meet with opposition leaders, MPs and senators.

MacDonald has been urging all MPs from his province to vote against the budget implementation bill, which was expected come before the House of Commons at 6:15 p.m.

There were also rumours of a meeting with Harper, but MacDonald's office said there were no plans for such a meeting and no "direct" communications with the prime minister's office.

In Nova Scotia, MacDonald's minority government placed newspaper ads urging residents to call on their 11 MPs to reject the bill because it effectively negates the Atlantic accord. The accord is a federal-provincial agreement that is supposed ensure the province is the "main beneficiary" of its offshore energy sector.

"The 2007 federal budget effectively rips up the accord and breaks the deal made with Nova Scotians," the ad says, echoing sentiments expressed by Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams.

"The federal budget comes to a vote this week. Contact your member of Parliament now and demand that the federal government keep its agreement - and its word - to the people of Nova Scotia."

MacDonald said he hopes to enlist the aid of Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and some senators in fighting the change.

The federal government was set to limit debate on the contentious bill Tuesday before the vote.

The government says it must have final passage of the budget by the end of June, but at least one senator said that won't happen.

"Will it be done by the 30th? No," said Nova Scotia Senator Terry Mercer. "You'll find senators are prepared to meet well beyond June 30 on the affairs of state that need to be discussed and if the budget is one of those things, so be it."

It wasn't immediate clear how the government would respond to such a delay.

Conservative Gerald Keddy, one of only two Nova Scotia Tories, said Monday that he was shocked to read comments from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty that said the government wasn't willing to negotiate side deals with the provinces on resource revenues.

Keddy said he felt he was "between a rock and hard place" over the federal budget and met with Harper late Monday to discuss the situation.

Keddy wasn't returning calls, but Fisheries Minister Loyola Heard said Keddy was "on side" with the government and was expected to vote in favour of the budget

Harper has responded to the latest salvos from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan by challenging the provinces to bring the dispute before the courts.

Williams took to the airwaves to describe the prime minister's behaviour as "childish."

"Stephen Harper is the de facto leader of this country ... and it's about time he started acting like one instead of trying to pit provinces against each other," Williams told CBC.

He said Harper's suggestion that the matter should be settled by the courts was a blatant bid the make the issue go away.

Meanwhile, a Nova Scotia municipality has passed a resolution that confirms its support for MacDonald's stand.

Truro Mayor Bill Mills is calling on other communities to do the same, saying the province should be united in its fight against Ottawa. Mills said the changes announced in the March 19 federal budget amounted to "knocking the legs from underneath us."
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Diplomatic approach failed to yield results

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BETH JOHNSTON
The Daily News

It's too bad the premier of Nova Scotia had to appear like an "angry man in the streets of Toronto" yesterday over the Atlantic Accord, but the prime minister left him no option, Nova Scotia NDP Leader Darrell Dexter said.

"Discussions between governments ought to be carried out in good faith. It's a very regretful day when the premier is faced with a prime minister who simply says, 'So sue me.'"

Premier Rodney MacDonald called on Nova Scotia members of Parliament Sunday to vote against the federal budget. He spoke to media outside a Bay Street executives' meeting in Toronto yesterday afternoon.

Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP Bill Casey was tossed from the federal Tory caucus Thursday after he voted against the federal budget. He got a heroes' welcome in Nova Scotia, which both Dexter and Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil think prompted MacDonald's next step.

"You'd have to live in a cave not to understand how well-received Mr. Casey's actions have been," Dexter said.

MacDonald's political survival depends on him getting in front of his own caucus on this issue, McNeil said, adding there could have been an "internal revolt" had he been silent any longer.

MacDonald claims he did all he could to convince the federal government to fix this problem at the table.

"The province and the federal government should be able to sit down and have negotiations in good faith ... regardless of how upset one or the other might be on an issue," he said.

"The people of Nova Scotia are outraged about this issue ... They're talking about this at the supper table. They're talking about this issue on the streets. They're talking about this issue in the boardrooms. It's an issue that won't go away, and will not be going away for a very long time unless it's fixed."

At stake is the Atlantic Accord, a 2005 contract that promises oil and gas revenue to the provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams has loudly opposed the federal budget, as now written, which nullifies the accord with a new equalization formula.

But MacDonald has said little, choosing back-room negotiations with the feds, which he claimed as recently as Saturday were going well.

"He really bent over backwards trying not to get into a fight with the prime minister over this," Dexter said.

"He's always treated this as an internal political file where the Conservatives in Nova Scotia were dealing with the Conservatives in Ottawa, and that was the problem."

McNeil accused the premier of "scrambling at the 11th hour."

"This is a last-ditch effort to save face and credibility in the eyes of Nova Scotians. Where has he been?"

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, who represents Central Nova, and South Shore MP Gerald Keddy now have the tough decision to make - to do what the premier wants or what the prime minister wants.

Nova Scotia is small, but unwilling to be bullied by the feds on any issue, MacDonald said.

"I'm not going to stand by while the people of my province lose out - not only on the $830 million which we received in 2005 - but what they'll claw back is beyond that. That is fundamentally unfair," he said.

"The right thing to do for the federal government is to own up to its mistake and fulfill the commitment that they have made to the people of Nova Scotia."
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Offshore dispute primer

The Canadian Press

The governments of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador are accusing the federal government of undermining their versions of the Atlantic Accord, joint agreements drafted in the 1980s that spell out what each level of government gets from the offshore energy sector. Here is some background on the dispute:

l Q: What is at stake?

- A: The two provinces had long complained they were being penalized under the federal equalization formula, which offered smaller payments to both provinces as they earned more money from their burgeoning offshore oil and gas industries.

In 2004, on the eve of a federal election, the previous federal Liberal government agreed to update the Atlantic accords to help each province overcome their "unique economic and fiscal challenges."

The revamped agreements, signed in 2005, gave each province 100 per cent protection from clawbacks of equalization payments.

That protection applies until 2011-12, as long as the provinces continue to receive equalization.

- Q: Does the federal budget affect the Atlantic accords?

- A: The provinces say the March 19 budget undermines the accords in that it requires them to give up their full protection against equalization clawbacks in order to participate in a new, richer equalization formula. That formula includes non-renewable resource revenues in equalization calculations, as well as a fiscal cap.

Both provinces say despite the larger equalization payments, the new arrangement could hurt them in the long run because the clawbacks are back and the fiscal cap puts a limit on what the provinces can receive from Ottawa.

But the federal government says the budget doesn't affect the accords because it offers each province a choice: either stick with the original agreement or opt into an enriched equalization formula.

The provinces say the federal government had pledged an improved equalization formula, so offering the status quo is far less than what was promised.

- Q: Why is the Saskatchewan government also angry over the federal budget?

- A: Saskatchewan has charged that with the new formula, Prime Minister Stephen Harper broke a promise to fully remove resource revenues from new equalization formula calculations, costing the province hundreds of millions of dollars in transfer payments.

But Harper says the budget actually offers more money to the province, and that the budget restores the equalization formula to a principle-based program that treats all provinces fairly.
 

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not sure which side i'm on. i'm not a fan of Harper nor am i a fan of that flag lowering premier.
 

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Hmmm. They were given a choice between keeping the old agreement which was a special side deal or taking a new agreement.


No matter which way you cut it, unless you just hate harper, this is a product of repressed anti-confeds in the Maritimes and Newfoundland. When you check the history the PC party in Nfld were agaisnt confederation.
 

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If the Conservatives keep kicking out MPs who disagree with every little part of their policy, they won't have any members left! :p
 

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Never trust Harper. If you think the $1-billion for Nova Scotia is bad, what do you think about the $25-billion Harper caused investors to lose? (The Income Trusts he promised not to tax)

I can't wait to vote these idiots out in the next election.
 

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i've always thought the Maritimes should amalgamate into one province. They'd have a larger voice in parliament and with a bigger economy, can do more. Not to mention they are culturally very similar.


anyhow, isn't it amazing that a have not province, with a high unemployment history and a "defeatest attitude" (Harper labelled the culture of the Maratimes as "defeatest"), is the first province with actual balls.

Harper is a power mad nutjob. He will lie his way into Quebec just like he did into the West. He sold BC and the West, and the Maratimes out BIG TIME for Quebec.

He's handed billions to loudmouthed separatists in hopes that their big time votes come through at election time.


AND he screwed a province which, if the Maratime Accord been held up, would have been a have province for the first time in a LOOOOONG time.

Good job Harper.

Not many Conservative MP's from the Maratimes this year. Too bad the sheep out here in Hick Christianville are going to be towing the "western" line.

I hope McKay takes Harper's place soon...
 

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The way I understand it, they are being offered a choice of two things. The original promised agreement, or one with higher payout and a cap. Is a cap unreasonable?
I honestly don't see what all the complaining is about. "Equalization" and special deals in this country are getting out of control.
 

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The way I understand it, they are being offered a choice of two things. The original promised agreement, or one with higher payout and a cap. Is a cap unreasonable?
I honestly don't see what all the complaining is about. "Equalization" and special deals in this country are getting out of control.
In a general sense I agree with what your saying.

However on this specific issue:
(Note: I'm not an expert on this issue and have barely followed it at all, so I might be completely wrong)

I thought this issue is about offshore resouce rights, in this case oil. It's my understanding that Alberta (and all provinces) have their land oil revenue excluded when calculating equalization forumulas. Offshore oil revenue is included though. Basically this agreement was to treat offshore oil and land oil equally. If that's all this is, then I think the Atlantic provinces have a point.

Is my understanding correct though?
 

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In a general sense I agree with what your saying.

However on this specific issue:
(Note: I'm not an expert on this issue and have barely followed it at all, so I might be completely wrong)

I thought this issue is about offshore resouce rights, in this case oil. It's my understanding that Alberta (and all provinces) have their land oil revenue excluded when calculating equalization forumulas. Offshore oil revenue is included though. Basically this agreement was to treat offshore oil and land oil equally. If that's all this is, then I think the Atlantic provinces have a point.

Is my understanding correct though?
Actually Saskatchewan does not have it's oil revenue excluded or for that fact any of its resource income.

Premier Calvert has actually stated he will take the Federal government to court. over the issue.


Province to sue feds over natural resource revenue
By Janet French, The StarPhoenix
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2007
The Province of Saskatchewan will launch a constitutional challenge against the federal government in an attempt to hold on to all of its natural resource revenues, Premier Lorne Calvert said Wednesday.

The announcement comes a day after the House of Commons passed a budget that would see the federal government put a cap on the value of oil and gas revenues Saskatchewan and other provinces could keep.

"I thought we'd won the battle when we elected from western Canada a Prime Minister who came straight out of the oil patch in western Canada, who made the claim, It's now time for the west to be in,' and then made this promise, not in one election but two elections, that 100 per cent of those resources would be excluded," Calvert told reporters outside his cabinet office in Saskatoon Wednesday morning.

Calvert said the suit will allege the federal government is violating two tenets of the constitution - that natural resources belong to a province's citizens, and that equalization payments should be based on fairness and equity.

"Because Saskatchewan is so singled out, is being treated so unfairly, the equity question is so obviously violated, we believe there is a strong case to be made in the courts on the basis of the constitution," Calvert said.

On Monday, Harper challenged Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald to sue if he believed the Conservative budget violated the 2005 Atlantic Accord that would see the province regain offshore oil revenues clawed back through equalization.

"This is a very, very poor way to run a country, to suggest to the provinces that to get a federal government to keep their promise, it needs to go to the courts to get it done," Calvert said.

"That said, this is the option that is before us, and I have today instructed the Department of Justice officials to prepare the paperwork, so that in a week's time or so, we can come before you fully describing the legal action that I now intend to take."

Saskatchewan Party leader Brad Wall said although he supports the premier's legal challenge in principle, he wants to know what the province's chances are at success.

"I'd like to see the legal opinions that he has as to whether or not we could win," Wall said.

"If our own Justice Department doesn't think we can win, then maybe that changes things a bit."

University of Saskatchewan political science professor Joe Garcea said it's "remarkable" that Saskatchewan is first out of the gate to launch a legal challenge over equalization, rather than Nova Scotia or Newfoundland, who had signed accords with the former Liberal government.

The challenge is likely more about securing future revenues from Saskatchewan's growing energy sector than just hanging on to the $800 million it generates each year now, Garcea said.

"One of the worst things for governments is unpredictability," he said. "Win or lose, at least there will be clarity."

The legal challenge could also become a political disaster for the federal Conservatives if other provinces follow suit, Garcea said.

"It's virtually impossible for federal governments to win when they're fighting with many governments on many fronts," he said.

The battles would send a message to voters the Conservatives can not create harmony, but "conflict and chaos, and that, I think, would be damaging to the Conservatives." Garcea said.

"They've got to be very careful about how they handle this."

The Conservatives had campaigned on a promise to exclude non-renewable resource revenues from the formula for equalization funding.

The Harper government claims it kept that promise because the March federal budget allows provinces to choose a formula that would pull non-renewable resource revenues from equalization. However, the budget also imposed an unforeseen cap on payments, meaning Saskatchewan gets $226 million in equalization this year and is slated to get no equalization funding in 2008-09
 

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In a general sense I agree with what your saying.

However on this specific issue:
(Note: I'm not an expert on this issue and have barely followed it at all, so I might be completely wrong)

I thought this issue is about offshore resouce rights, in this case oil. It's my understanding that Alberta (and all provinces) have their land oil revenue excluded when calculating equalization forumulas. Offshore oil revenue is included though. Basically this agreement was to treat offshore oil and land oil equally. If that's all this is, then I think the Atlantic provinces have a point.

Is my understanding correct though?
Harper is quite confidently offering the Provinces to sue Ottawa if they wish. Why? Because one of the options they can choose is 100% the original. There is nothing to "sue" for, and the Maritimes know this. It is just good old fashioned grandstanding to get more goodies from the tax pool. The original offer of excluding the oil revenue will be honoured, but frankly it is beyond me why that money is magically excluded when calculating equalization payments. Why should I continue to send part of my tax money when certain provinces double dip? That was NOT the original intent of "equalization", which has become little more than a tool to buy votes.
 

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It is completely beyond me why income from oil revenue should be ignored and the rest of Canada continue to send equalization payments to the Maritimes.
I have no problem with the "have" provinces sharing.. but I am getting tired of being ripped off and having people scream bloody murder that they want the damn cake and they want to eat it, too. In this specific case they have been offered the option to stick to the original promise, or have a bigger payout with a cap. The cap is the sticking point, as it is believed there should be no cap used by consecutive federal governments using Federal tax money to buy regional votes. No one has gone back on any promises.. they just want to make the pot even sweeter than it is. The reason Harper is so confidently saying "Sue Me", is that he knows they are being offered the exact original "promise", so there is absolutely nothing they could sue over. The Maritime provinces know this as well. It is a shameful scam for more federal tax money.
It should be known that Atlantic accords only shield the provinces from equalization claw backs until 2013, or if they still need equalization 2019-2020. It is not a forever thing. Newfoundland for example, will only recevieve a payment of 477m in 07/08 and 197m in 08/09. So it is likely by the end of the decade Newfoundland would in theory "pay in". Nova Scotia has less oil and gas so it will probably need it until 2019/20.

I believe this is the main sticking point when it comes to equalization

4. Commencing in 2006-07, and continuing through 2011-12, the annual offset payments shall be equal to 100 per cent of any reductions in Equalization payments resulting from offshore resource revenues. The amount of additional offset payment for a year shall be calculated as the difference between the Equalization payment that would be received by the province under the Equalization formula as it exists at the time if the province received no offshore petroleum resource revenues in that year, and the Equalization payment for the province in that year under the Equalization formula as it exists at the time, net of any payments made with respect to the existing Atlantic Accord or Equalization offset provisions.
Steven Harper changed the formula, mainly to aid Quebec. So offering the old agreement vs new agreement should not happen because it states clearly "as it exists at the time".
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Saskatchewan is already suing them, and from what I can tell if all 3 provinces get on board the effects will be much greater.. I am against the process in theory because it seems like a huge waste of time and money, but the fact that Harper can be so arrogant towards the provinces is sickening. If Quebec or any of the larger (2,000,000+) provinces were involved the federal government would be scrambling like mad trying to fix this, but since it's just the little unimportant provinces like Sask, NS and NFLD they say "let the courts deal with it, you don't matter to us"??
 

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The entire concept of equalization has been so distorted for political gain and vote buying that it is becoming obscene. If you think this is sickening, you should live in one of the provinces that gets fleeced annually to provide these goodies.
 

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I think in theory equalization is a great program because it helps to provide health and education services to provinces that otherwise would have to lower health and education standards or raise taxes to extremely high levels. Both would be economically damaging for the province itself and the country as a whole. Not only that, we are all Canadians and should have roughly the same level of basic services. Equalization is much better then the programs that came before it.

But it does have its problems. As taller pointed out, it can be used for political gains in one province at the expense of taxpayers in another. Like the resent adjustment that increased payments drastically for Quebec.

Lastly in terms of economic development, equalization and other stopgap financial solutions also give the sense(to the rest of the country) that they are already doing 'enough' for the region. When equalization does not further development and EI is downright damaging. I have already said this before, but what is needed it a Atlantic strategy. Help the Atlantic develop sustainable industries. This is beginning to happen in a small way for example Halifax is growing its financial services, IT industries. But it really needs both levels of government to take off in a big way. Oil, gas and energy in general are probably also be a cornerstone of the new Atlantic economy as well.

lol, ok, that is enough for now.
 

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o_O Saskatchewan too?
 

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The purpose of transfer payments was to help have-not provinces maintain a minimum Canadian standard of services for their citizens. When a province becomes wealthier, and still demands the money it is not acceptable. A transition period is needed, but transfers should end as quickly as possible.

To demand exemptions for provinces like Newfoundland or Saskatchewan is offensive to those provinces that are paying the bill. Subsidies are there to help through the bad times. That these provinces think they are still entitled to subsidies shows that they have developed 'welfare' mentalities.

Pathetic! Stop making other people pay your way, and stop exporting your resources unprocessed. We have so much resource wealth, but so little economic and political clout to show for it. These people just want to pump out the resource as quickly as possible for the quick money, with no thought to creating wealth from the opportunity.
 
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