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Big bucks at stake in Atlantic Accord negotiations

Minister Responsible for the Status of Women Carol Anne Haley speaks to reporters Monday.
Minister Responsible for the Status of Women Carol Anne Haley speaks to reporters Monday. - David Maher

As deadline looms, Opposition wonders if big cheque is on way

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie wants to know just how much money is at stake as negotiations around the Atlantic Accord near conclusion.

The negotiations centre around natural resources revenues and the split between how much goes to the province and how much goes to the federal government. Former premier Danny Williams’ “we got it” announcement after the 2005 negotiations netted the province an approximately $2-billion cheque.

Crosbie wants to know how many fiscal years are being examined in the negotiations. The more years being considered could indicate a higher or lower payment to the province, should the provincial government be successful in adjusting the federal-provincial split of royalties.

Ches Crosbie
Ches Crosbie

“I’m informed it’s as much as half a billion dollars are at stake for this current fiscal year. So, how many previous years are we talking about? This problem of us not getting 100 per cent benefit didn’t just crop up this year,” said Crosbie.

“If there are prior years involved, that could be several hundred million in the years before this, a hundred million in the year beyond that. So how far back are we going?”

Premier Dwight Ball declined to state just how many years are under review or give an estimate of a dollar figure, but he says it’s mainly math left in the negotiations.

“There’s no doubt when we discuss primary or principal beneficiary, there’s always the discussion about what the impact would be in percentage terms and so on. It is a bit of a math exercise,” said Ball.

“Of course, we’re looking for a dollar figure that would come to the province. This is about making sure we get the long-lasting benefits of our natural resources.”

Ball reiterated the March 31 deadline for negotiations, without any specifics on when an announcement is expected.

Women’s Leadership Conference questions

Minister Responsible for the Status of Women Carol Anne Haley continued to face questions over last week’s Women in Leadership conference at the St. John’s Convention Centre.

Tory MHA Tracey Perry questioned why only Liberal MHAs were present at the event, while New Democratic Party Leader Gerry Rogers called it a “personal partisan PR event” for Ball and Haley.

Haley says specific invitations were not issued for the event — rather, specific groups were notified to spread the word.

“This was not an exclusive event. It was a first come, first serve basis." — Carol Anne Haley, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women

“Invitations went out to a variety of community contacts and asking them to distribute to their networks. I would have assumed, given the contacts that they have in those networks, I would have assumed they passed on the invitation,” Haley told reporters.

Liberal MHAs were directly informed of the event, while Opposition MHAs were not.

Haley says it was up to Opposition members to reserve their seat at the event.

“This was not an exclusive event. It was a first come, first serve basis,” she said.

“If they had such a relationship with their networks, then they would have received the invitation.”

Michael welcomes O’Leary

St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi MHA Lorraine Michael says she heard rumours that St. John’s Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary had thoughts about announcing some kind of run in the coming election, but was surprised by her announcement on Monday morning.

Lorraine Michael
Lorraine Michael

As The Telegram first reported, O’Leary intends to challenge Michael for her nomination in the coming general election.

“Sheilagh is free to do whatever she wants to do, absolutely. However, I have said and I will continue to say that I do intend to run in the district that I’ve represented for 16 years,” Michael said.

“All I know is that I do believe we’re all free to run and if the members of my party want me to represent them, they will do that.”

Michael said she considered the prospect of stepping aside it the new leader of the NDP wants to run in St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi. She said she would have to think about whether she would run in another district, were that the case.

Of note

Progressive Conservative Topsail-Paradise MHA Paul Dinn was officially presented to Speaker Perry Trimper in a quick ceremony to welcome new MHAs to the House of Assembly. Later in the day, he gave his first speech in the House of Assembly.

Twitter: @DavidMaherNL

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