Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Highway Bill v. Harper

We used to call him "Highway Bill" because he opposed a toll road on an important stretch of highway in the Maritimes. Bill Casey is as nice a guy as you'll ever meet in Ottawa. He works hard, has lots of friends, and stands up for his constituents and his region.
I don't agree with Atlantic Canadians who argue gas and oil revenues should not be taken into account when calculating equalization payments. Like Highway Bill, I do believe the Maritimes deserve a better deal.
Here's why.
In 1905, the federal government created the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. At that time, there were important changes to provincial boundaries. The two districts that became provinces extended only about half way to their present northern boundaries. The rest of what is now Alberta and Saskatchewan was federal Crown land. At that time, Manitoba was also much smaller than it is now. Ontario's northern boundary was the Albany River. Quebec's was, essentially, the height of land between the Hudson Bay and St. Lawrence watersheds.
The federal government transferred vast areas to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. The land includes many of Alberta's oil fields and all of the tar sands; Saskatchewan's metal deposits; the Thompson nickel deposits, the Pas, and the port of Churchill in Manitoba; much of Ontario's gold mining area and all of its diamond prospects; much of Quebec's mineral wealth and all of the James Bay Hydro resources. The three Maritime provinces got nothing and lost their share of the benefits of ownership of this federal Crown land.
So control of, and profits from, the offshore should go to Atlantic Canada. But leave equalization out of it, unless we're prepared to leave Alberta oil and Ontario industry out, too.
Bill Casey is paying a big price for his stance. Hopefully, he can still effectively serve his constituents, either here or in Nova Scotia.

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