Just so we’re all on the same page here, in campaign promises and previous discussion with the provinces, Stephen Harper committed verbally and, on several occasions, in writing, that there would be NO changes to the Atlantic Accord as part of a revamped provincial equalization scheme. In other words, no matter what happened, the Atlantic Accord was to be the baseline – a rock as solid and hard as Newfoundland itself.
Then comes Budget 2007 – the most liberal Conservative budget ever, the mother of all budgets that was touted as putting an end to the bickering over equalization once and for all. Except for one small thing – it made changes to the Atlantic Accord, modifying some clauses and adding others. Jim Flaherty (with HRH Harper behind him) then had the audacity to insist that the Atlantic Accord was “unchanged”. Except for the changes, I guess.
Now Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey (hooray for at least one MP who acts with the power of his convictions) has been turfed from caucus for pointing out the emperor had, in fact, no clothes on this point (man, there’s a scary visual image). Gerald Keddy, another Nova Scotia Conservative MP, is on the fence considering his options – expect some news on that in a day or so. These are not stupid people, which makes it even more unlikely that they would put their careers on the line over a frivolous or nonexistent issue. Also in their corner is Nova Scotia Premier MacDonald, who continues to pressure Ottawa to come clean and admit that they will change the Accord under the covers of the budget.
Folks, this is not a debate over shades of grey where perception can be reality. We are talking about contracts, with clauses, sections, sub-sections, appendices. Legal opinion is pretty clear on the issue – you change a clause, section, or sub-section in a contract and the contract has changed. There can be no question about it. It has changed!
So now that HRH and company are being shown – yet again – to be somewhat less than trustworthy, how do they respond? With a typically arrogant, “so sue me” response. How asinine, juvenile, and just incredibly stupid of them. Canadian taxpayers will be thrilled, I’m sure, to be paying legal fees ad nauseum plus the salaries of hundreds of finance department gophers to drag this case through the courts over the next several years. And during all that time the Harperites get a ”get out of jail free” card that they can play whenever anyone legitimately asks about Flaherty’s equalization deal – “Sorry, I can’t comment. It’s before the courts.”
It’s enough to make one sick.