There has been much public discussion and expectation that the only way to truly “mitigate” the electricity rate or tax increases required to pay our province’s debt is for the federal government to intervene. What, exactly, this federal intervention would look like has been less clearly articulated, but in one form or another, it would amount to a sharing of our provincial debt with the rest of Canada.
I, for one, would prefer not to shift our debts onto our fellow Canadians. This is not to say that Canada should not assist, but it need not be by picking up the tab. Instead, I suggest that the federal government, in its ongoing efforts to reformulate the Canada Environmental Assessment Act, make the necessary revisions to return efficiency to the offshore regulatory approval process.
Since amendments to the Canada Environmental Assessment Act in 2012, the approval process for exploratory drilling has become unnecessarily long and complex. It should not take two to three years to gain the necessary approvals to drill an exploration well when other wells have previously been approved in the same region. The upcoming amendments to the environmental assessment process should remove these unreasonable barriers to development to encourage investment in our province. This can be done without increased risk to our offshore personnel or to the environment.
The debts owed by our province are real, and they are ours. Paying for them with existing provincial oil revenues rather than taxes or electricity rates, is merely taking money out of one pocket and putting it in another. Asking the rest of Canada for a hand-out erodes the self-confidence and self-sufficiency we have proudly gained since the Atlantic Accord was signed in 1985. I ask the federal government to assist us grow the province’s oil revenues such that we, Newfoundland and Labrador, can afford to pay our debts. The federal government can do this by honouring the intent of the Atlantic Accord in allowing C-NLOPB to regulate, and Newfoundland and Labrador to benefit from, the oil off our shores.