I note the recent exchange of comments between the premier and the leader of the Opposition on the review of the Atlantic Accord by the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
My understanding is for changes to be made both governments would have to agree and put those changes forward to their respective parliaments.
First, the only changes that should be agreed to by the provincial government are changes which would strengthen the provisions of the Accord. No changes that would weaken the meaning of the provisions of the Accord should even be entertained. They should be rejected out of hand. I trust any ideas put forward by the provincial government are in this vein of enhancing the Accord for the province.
Second. The Accord stands on its own. There should be no trade-offs with other things. Those other deals, agreements should be negotiated on their own merits.
Former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau tried to get me to entertain trade-offs and it was rejected out of hand. This government should do likewise.
Mr. Ches Crosbie (with whom I have not talked to about this) has raised the idea of certain wording changes that have crept in to the provincial government’s discussion or language on the issue. One wording mentioned is the substitution of principal beneficiary for primary beneficiary. If this has even been entertained, it is as bad as us agreeing to transfer the fishery over to the federal government in the Terms Of Union.
Apparently, the provincial government is now saying they are not entertaining such word changing. I hope not. Does anyone realize how difficult it was to get this wording? That change alters considerably the meaning of the Accord.
This phrasing was fundamental to the Accord being accepted by the province in the first place. Mr. Bill Marshall, then Energy Minister, and the negotiating team and yours truly were adamant on that. Any such wording change is the thin edge of the wedge.
Perhaps over time with such a wording change we are just the primary recipients of the royalties? Not the only ones?
Has the provincial government made public its position on this review?
Has the provincial government sought advice from any of those who were involved in the successful negotiations that led to the Accord? I have not been contacted.
In the shadow of the Muskrat Inquiry, surely there is no further erosion of the province’s capacity to function being contemplated? Especially, of that rare commodity of us doing something right.
Honourable A. Brian Peckford P.C.