April 16, 2004
Premier reiterates province�s position on Atlantic Accord
Premier Danny Williams today reiterated his government�s position on the Atlantic Accord and reaffirmed the province will continue to aggressively pursue the federal government to allow Newfoundland and Labrador to receive 100 per cent of the provincial revenues from offshore oil and gas.
"I want to assure the people of the province that we are continuing to press Ottawa on this issue," said the premier. "I heard through the media that Minister Efford has opened the door for talks between the province and the federal government on the possible development of the Lower Churchill, and we would certainly be delighted to have those discussions. In my first and subsequent meetings with Prime Minister Martin, I indicated the province would like to see the federal government play a significant role in developing the Lower Churchill, so I am glad to see this moving forward.
"However, I want to be very clear the development of the Lower Churchill and the Atlantic Accord are two completely separate and unique issues."
While speaking to a business group in St. John�s yesterday, it is reported that John Efford, Minister of Natural Resources Canada, indicated the federal government may be willing to sit with the province and discuss individual projects that would not require changes to the equalization program.
"I would imagine Minister Efford�s comments may have been misinterpreted by some, when he spoke about project-specific opportunities as opposed to moving forward on the Atlantic Accord issue. He clearly stated only weeks ago that the political will existed in Ottawa to do something for Newfoundland and Labrador, so we would receive more of our offshore oil and gas revenues. He requested and we gave him a detailed presentation and he committed to bring this proposal back to the Prime Minister. I am still awaiting a favourable response from the Prime Minister�s office."
Premier Williams pointed out the province�s proposal on the Atlantic Accord was designed by provincial officials specifically to fall outside of the equalization program, so that should not be an issue in the context of Minister Efford�s remarks this week.
"Minister Efford has clearly indicated previously he believes this province deserves more revenues from our offshore oil and gas and I am confident that he is sincere in this regard," added the Premier. "The minister also said we need to avoid band-aid solutions, and I was encouraged by that because our proposal on the Atlantic Accord would provide a long-term solution finally providing for Newfoundland and Labrador the benefits we deserve from our offshore resources. As well, I have contacted each provincial and territorial premier and we have the support of 11 of the 12 on our Atlantic Accord proposal and the support of the 12th on our efforts generally to get a more equitable deal from the federal government."
Under the province�s proposal, the provincial government is asking the federal government to live-up to the spirit and intent of the "principal beneficiary" component of the Atlantic Accord. Currently, the federal government receives 86 per cent of the revenues of our offshore petroleum resources while the province receives a meager 14 per cent.
"This is completely contrary to the spirit and intent of the accord and must be addressed now before these non-renewable resources are gone forever," said the Premier. "On March 30, we brought down a tough but responsible budget to start addressing the very serious fiscal situation we face in Newfoundland and Labrador. We are making tough choices to manage our expenditures and to grow our revenues at the provincial level, with a long-term plan to grow our economy, however Ottawa must also be a part of the solution."
Media contact: Elizabeth Matthews, Office of the Premier, (709) 729-3960 or (709) 690-5500
2004 04 16 12:30 p.m.