rough notes

Casey at the Bat

with 3 comments

Bill Casey, the 2007 Budget and the Atlantic Accord. Or maybe Bill Casey, Danny Williams and Rodney McDonald. In some circles, it may as well be Casey, Stephen Harper and McDonald, while others see it as Peter McKay, McDonald and Casey. Promises Made, Promises Kept, indeed.

When Bill Casey went to bat last week in the Canadian House of Commons and voted against his governing Conservative Party‘s budget implementation bill on second reading, he knew full well that such an action – a vote of confidence – would see him booted from caucus. He also knew, however, that the budget contained several unilateral amendments to an agreement signed between the Governments of Canada and Nova Scotia in 2005 [link to pdf of the actual document here] that would virtually eliminate any profits the province might see from future offshore oil wealth. Casey was concerned about two things – the sudden reversal of fortune for his have-not home province, and the unilateral action by the his government to tear up a signed agreement.

The brouhaha has ensued, and we’re all living in it at the moment. Casey was booted from caucus by the whip immediately after the vote; the opposition cheers him on and offers him a chair (he declines); the Government immediately smears the long-standing member as a traitor and a flip-flopper; Canadian politics heads further down the hole to complete rot.

And then the real fun began. On Saturday, June 10, 2007, the Canadian Minister of Finance wrote a letter to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald stating that side-deals of any sort (be it the 2005 agreement, the original 1985 Atlantic Accord, or the supposed negotiations going on between the Province and Ottawa for several weeks) were detrimental to the entire equalization formula and the nation’s social safety net. Premier Rodney McDonald spoke to the press on Sunday, and wrote his own letter to the editor on Monday, arguing that the Province could clearly no longer negotiate in good faith on a contract which had already been settled the previous year, and asked the remaining two Nova Scotian Conservative MPs, Gerard Keddy and Peter McKay, to vote against the budget on third reading. And finally, on Monday afternoon, The Prime Minister, having returned from the G8 Summit in Germany, finally met the cameras and responded through the press to the Premier that any such allegation of broken contracts is offensive and wrong. He concluded by daring the Premier to simply get a lawyer and see him in court.

Yes, the Prime Minister told the Premier that if he doesn’t like what he sees, then one government should simply sue the other. Promise made, Promise kept.But I digress.

Back to Casey, who went to bat for his riding, his province, and ostensibly for the remaining vestiges of decorum and principles in Canadian federal politics. One might spin that Casey’s actions created this whole mess, but it must be remembered that the Government’s budget called to unilaterally break a contract it had signed with the Province of Nova Scotia. Notwithstanding the billions of future revenues that Nova Scotia may lose (it remains to be seen if their offshore oil industry will expand, but the dollars and cents in this issue does play in Newfoundland’s court, which has been looking for a fair deal for years now), Casey’s actions highlights Prime Minister Harper’s Government’s willingness to break contracts when it sees fit. This is not the first time Prime Minister Harper has reneged on signed accords. The minority government has already pulled out of the Kyoto Agreement, which previous governments had already ratified, and have now torn up this contract, which previous governments signed. Granted, Liberal intransigence has stymied Canada’s abilities to properly work toward greenhouse gas solutions under Kyoto, but Canada’s “New Government” (which has been “new” for upwards of 18 months at the time of this printing) lost face at both the international and domestic level when its minority rump curried favour to industry and killed the agreement rather than work toward an effective solution. Likewise, the dissolution of the Atlantic Accord, an agreement which would temporarily take natural resource revenues out of the equalization formula (in a manner similar to the agreement which was signed between Ottawa and Alberta in the 20th century to give the province a chance to develop its oil industry), to curry favour to voters in seat-rich Ontario and Quebec at the expense of Atlantic Canada shows the pragmatic opportunism of the current Canadian Government. Promises made, and kept.

There was a time when new government would not reject the laws and acts developed by its political rivals in previous governments, but would work toward implementing their own platform alongside the regulations put in place. It would be impractical, and frankly ridiculous, if every new government to come to power would spend the next three years undoing the work of the previous government. Now, the Conservative Party’s numbers are tanking in the Maritimes (as expected after the Budget), but also in Quebec and are turning stale in Ontario. Prime Minister Harper’s righteous anger of governance is not helping his party in the polls – it remains to be seen if he will change course or continue to tell his MPs and Premiers to call up a good lawyer if they don’t like the way things are done anymore under “Canada’s New Government.”

Finally, check out the highly politicized 2007 Budget yourself, in .pdf (English). You may want to call up your old political science professor from university to help you cut through the bull.

You are commodified.


Written by mitchellirons

June 11, 2007 at 7:40 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Great article which sums up the messy situation very well. I am a resident of Nova Scotia and I support Bill Casey wholeheartedly. I hope he continues with his political career as I will support him as an Independent just as much as if he was a PC.


    June 12, 2007 at 8:21 am

  2. Great article.

    One thing to note (from the previous comment), is that neither Casey, nor any member of the current government of Canada are members of the PC party. One must keep in mind that this, friends and neighbours, is the Conservative Party of Canada, and it is made up of an amalgam of the old PCs, as well as the Alliance/Reform Party of Canada. This is our government. This is who we elected. We act surprised that these particular tories have created a legislative atmosphere that seems hostile to Atlantic Canada, but really, if they were under their old ‘Reform’ label, would we still be surprised? A label is, after all, just a label, and old attitudes die hard.


    June 27, 2007 at 12:11 pm

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    October 11, 2007 at 2:23 pm

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