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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Show us the money 

Hmmm -- CP reports Canadians blast Ottawa over treatment of Saskatchewan. Well, I should hope so:
Of the 108 submissions [to a Finance Department survey last summer] 50 criticized the Conservative government for failing to live up to promises to exclude resource revenues, just as Atlantic Canada's offshore energy wealth has effectively been excluded for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador under special deals with those provinces.
None of the other 60 issues raised came even close to that level of consensus, an internal accounting of the responses shows. . . .
The Finance Department's official report on the web-based consultations does not reflect the overwhelmingly pro-Saskatchewan nature of the web contributions.
"There were wide views on the treatment of natural resources," says the final report, posted on the Internet last month.
"Some suggested that all non-renewable resource revenues should be excluded from the equalization formula, a view shared by the substantial number of submissions from Saskatchewan.
"There were also submissions that supported the full inclusion of resource revenues in the equalization formula."
The Finance Department warned last summer when it announced the consultation that it was not intended to be a poll, though the internal documents indicate bureaucrats conducted a careful accounting of which issues received the most comment.
The department initially refused to release the documents under the Access to Information Act, saying all results would eventually be published. But officials relented last week after the office of the Information Commissioner of Canada launched an investigation.
Well, I'm almost certain I know where 12 of the submissions must have come from -- our very own Conservative MPs!
I'm sure of it, because they were so very vocal on this issue BEFORE they were elected to government. Of course they would have taken the opportunity offered by the Finance Department to remind Harper about his promises! [/snark]
And here is what they said -- Giant Political Mouse gathered these comments from 2004 and 2005:
“The matter of equalization has to do with Saskatchewan's natural resources which by right of the Constitution we should have complete access to, we should have total and complete benefit of. It is a right which is being taken away from us through the equalization process…. We want nothing more than the basic principles of fairness applied.”- Mr. Bradley Trost (Saskatoon—Humboldt, CPC) Hansard
“Saskatchewan has been ripped off by the federal government when it comes to equalization …Because of equalization, revenues from the very resources that are keeping the province afloat are being handed to the federal government which in turn distributes the money among the have not provinces”- Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, CPC) Hansard
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the equalization question…. We can find inequities that exist between provinces particularly as they relate to Saskatchewan. In that regard, there have been many studies commissioned showing that Saskatchewan has had the bad end of the deal on this one… All Saskatchewan wants is to be treated fairly and equitably… It is our position that non-renewable resources such as oil and gas should not be in the formula. The Minister of Finance, a native of Saskatchewan, has an obligation to the citizens of Saskatchewan and those in particular in Souris—Moose Mountain to ensure that the past injustices done to Saskatchewan are not repeated again.- Mr. Ed Komarnicki (Souris—Moose Mountain, CPC) Hansard
Saskatchewan is simply not getting its fair share out of equalization…. Just last week the Prime Minister visited Saskatoon, but refused to substantially negotiate or discuss the equalization matter with our premier…. Saskatchewan faces challenges. Its population has increased 14% since the Great Depression, while other provincial populations have flourished. With major industries in crisis, a static population and mounting fiscal pressures, we cannot afford to wait forever for this federal government to attend to this problem…. We need our NDP government in Saskatchewan to be supportive of our efforts to get a better deal for Saskatchewan. We need a provincial government that wants our province to prosper on the backs of its own industries. At the very least we need a provincial government that will hold the federal government to its constitutional obligations…. I plead with the government and the minister across the way to negotiate a fair deal with the province of Saskatchewan and to do it without delay.- Mrs. Carol Skelton (Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, CPC) Hansard
“The equalization formula that we have has totally shafted the province of Saskatchewan from every standpoint…. A good deal of the problem I have identified is the gross unfairness in the equalization formula. I want to point out a couple of those discrepancies. I also want to point out that the Conservative Party has clearcut policies on this matter as opposed to the government across the way…. I want to make it clear that this formula is grossly unfair to a province that has non-renewable natural resources…. This is bad policy. It is terrible policy…. This formula is unfair. It is shocking. I do not know what terminology I could use to describe the matter….. As a resident of Saskatchewan, I am looking at a formula that does not serve our province very well at all. As I stated at the onset, in many respects it shafts the people of Saskatchewan to the umpteenth degree. What is the government's response to this very serious problem? The finance minister says that it is too complicated to discuss.- Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick (Prince Albert, CPC) Hansard
"The truth of the matter is that in Saskatchewan the only elected official who is not demanding the same deal as was afforded Premiers Hamm and Williams is the Minister of Finance. That is shameful. Will the minister or his designate stand in the House today and do what is right, do what is fair, and simply commit to the elimination of the clawback provisions and give Saskatchewan people the same deal as afforded to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia?"Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, CPC) Hansard
"Representatives of the people of Saskatchewan are obliged to speak out against an equalization system that penalizes our province with an over-emphasis on non-renewable resources and a complete failure to accurately measure fiscal capacity. The detrimental effects of the present equalization formula should not be under-estimated. It has and continues to have a real effect on the prosperity of the residents of Saskatchewan, robbing them of economic benefits resulting from energy revenues…. The concept of equalization is to assist have not provinces. However, under this formula, we could conceivably cement the economic stagnation of some provinces, such as my own, for decades to come. The treatment of Saskatchewan's non-renewable resources under the equalization formula is, to quote Courchene, “not only inequitable, it is fiscally and economically immiserating”`. We cannot allow this situation to persist."- Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC) Hansard
“A tremendous number of our graduates and our kids are working in Alberta in that oil patch that Alberta started before this equalization formula became a hindrance. I take exception to that…. The whole equalization process, and the fundamental word in there is equal, has become a political process, not a practical process. One can argue that formula is as flawed as the equalization one and I would agree. It needs to be changed…"- Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC) Hansard
"I have a lot of people in my riding who would like to know why, when those parties were making this deal, there was not a single penny for agriculture and not a single penny for a fair deal for Saskatchewan in terms of equalization, an agenda that this party has been driving for months as the only ally of the Saskatchewan people in moving this issue forward."- Mr. Andrew Scheer (Regina Qu’appelle, CPC) Hansard
There is no equalization deal for Saskatchewan, which is what the Conservative Party has been consistently demanding from the government. To put it into perspective, a new equalization deal would have meant an additional $750 million for Saskatchewan, my province, this year alone.- Mr. Dave Batters (Palliser, CPC) Hansard
It was interesting to hear him say that equalization is not really about equality. It seems to me that it is…. We know that the current equalization formula is flawed…. We agree that Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia deserve to keep their offshore gas and oil revenues. However, we think that what is fair for those provinces is also fair for Saskatchewan…. . This change should be a slam dunk.- Mr. David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, CPC) Hansard
"This is not something just unique to the Conservative Party, but we believe there is a tremendous flaw in the current equalization formula… It is estimated that Saskatchewan, had it received that same deal a decade ago, would have received an additional $8 billion for the province from non-renewable resource revenues…. In regard to equalization, Saskatchewan is being treated very unfairly…. By not providing a fair deal for Saskatchewan, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have turned their backs on our province"Mr. Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, CPC) Hansard
The Mouse has been giving yeoman coverage to this issue -- here's another recent post of his, a very useful roundup of Saskatchewan blog comments about the equalization issue.

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