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LETTER: Phoney Atlantic Accord deal was an April Fool’s joke

Premier Dwight Ball and federal cabinet minister Seamus O’Regan shake hands after signing the renegotiated 2019 Atlantic Accord review Monday at the Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland in St. John’s.
Premier Dwight Ball and federal cabinet minister Seamus O’Regan shake hands after signing the renegotiated 2019 Atlantic Accord review earlier this year at the Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland in St. John’s. - Juanita Mercer

The provincial Liberals led by Premier Dwight Ball have squandered the right granted by the 2005 Atlantic Accord arrangement to review whether the Atlantic Accord is functioning for Newfoundland and Labrador in the way intended — as the means to our sustainability, prosperity and ability to contribute to Confederation.

The 1985 Atlantic Accord, a product of many political and legal battles, was entered between the PC administrations of Brian Mulroney and Brian Peckford. My father, John Crosbie, was one of the signatories.

Driven by PC Premier Danny Williams, the 2005 Atlantic Accord arrangement addressed and corrected the failure of the province to be principal beneficiary under the 1985 Atlantic Accord. The 2005 arrangement dealt with the treatment of petroleum resource revenues under equalization and it resulted in a contribution of at least $2 billion toward the province’s debt.

Premier Ball wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau in February 2018 and invoked rights of review which were established by the 2005 Atlantic Accord arrangement.

Ball’s letter to Trudeau stated the list of critical issues to be reviewed as set out in the 2005 Atlantic Accord agreement. The Government of Canada was legally obligated to address issues including the province’s continuing fiscal disparity, and “the extent to which the Atlantic Accord objectives have been achieved, including the key objectives of the Atlantic Accord that Newfoundland and Labrador be the principal beneficiary of its offshore.”

To their lasting shame, the provincial Liberal government led by Ball went to Trudeau’s Ottawa, and came back with no resolution of these critical issues whatsoever.

To hide their failure of leadership, the Ball and O’Regan Liberals launched a massive propaganda campaign to distract the public and brand a convoluted Hibernia dividends agreement dated April Fool’s Day 2019, as an Atlantic Accord deal. The formal name of the agreement says it all: Hibernia Annuity Backed Dividend Agreement.

This is not the name of an agreement that is intended to correct and honour the Atlantic Accord. This April Fool’s joke instead provided us with “chicken feed” averaging $66 million per year over 38 years.

The federal and provincial Liberals squandered a hard-won opportunity to address the recovery of this province from our population, fiscal and economic challenges by way of honouring and implementing the intent of the Atlantic Accord.

The intent of the Atlantic Accord is that we be the principal beneficiary of our offshore resources as if they were on land, and that we achieve that benefit through strong joint management rights. The Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) is the principal agent to manage these strong rights. They include the right of the C-NLOPB to be a responsible authority for environmental regulation, a right granted to a different regulator by Trudeau’s Bill C-69 passed by Parliament in June.

This is the weakest provincial and federal leadership Newfoundland and Labrador has ever known.

A new national Conservative government and a competent provincial government, must resolve to address the real Atlantic Accord issues critical to our financial destiny that the Liberals have completely ignored. The Trudeau federal Liberal omission of the C-NLOPB as a responsible authority must be corrected, and our status as principal beneficiary must be enforced.

Ches Crosbie,
Leader of the Official Opposition


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