Premier Danny Williams
Economic Club of Toronto
May 3, 2007
Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you so much to the Economic Club of Toronto for your kind invitation to speak with you today.
I am truly humbled by the opportunity to speak here, especially after seeing papers promoting myself and another upcoming speaker. Here is my promotion in the National Post and here is Arnold Schwarzenegger�s. I should change my name to Danny Devito and ask the Governor if he wants to do "Twins II".
But seriously, I always welcome an opportunity to speak to what we in Newfoundland and Labrador call "mainland" Canada. I welcome the opportunity because I think that though we are sometimes misunderstood as a province, we are at the core very much like our friends here in Ontario.
We all strive to be the best that we can be. We all have as our common objective to secure a greater future for our children and grandchildren. And we all believe in the fundamental values that make this country the greatest place on earth to live.
I believe that success for the country as a whole is best achieved by the individual successes of provinces and territories. And though I am sometimes compared to Hugo Chavez, or assailed by national editorialists as a juvenile showman, my desire is to have the rising tide of the Newfoundland and Labrador economy lift all boats across this country.
For my entire life, I have always thrived on challenges. Most things in life worth having often require you to face obstacles � sometimes minor and sometimes significant.
I discovered this to be true whether I was in the courtroom, in the boardroom, or on the hockey rink. And the best challenges result in effecting meaningful and powerful change for others.
When I entered the political arena almost seven years ago, it was not because of a lifelong ambition, but because if I had not tried to make a difference, I would have failed a province that had given me so much.
I learned from experience that the potential was there to achieve great success in Newfoundland and Labrador. But after years of experience, I was also frustrated that so many opportunities for growth were being missed, lost or mismanaged.
Napoleon said "Leaders are dealers in hope." And my goal was to launch our province on the road to hope and prosperity.
This is why I fight so passionately and vocally against federal leaders when they let us down.
Disraeli once said, "The English nation is never so great as in adversity." Newfoundland and Labrador is no different.
Let me share with you the facts about our province and then you can make your own informed decision about what Newfoundland and Labrador really stands for.
When we joined confederation almost 58 years ago, we had cash in the bank, but our per-capita debt increased tenfold the very day we joined. We were a nation that had come through the war in good financial shape and abundant in natural resources. Since confederation, things have changed.
For starters, we gave away our right to manage the offshore oil and gas resources that we didn�t fully realize we had at the time.
We passed them over to Canada, even though other jurisdictions in the country fully own and manage their resources because they are under ground instead of under water.
In the late 60�s, we also lost most of the return on our Upper Churchill hydro-power resource to Qu�bec, which received an outrageously-lopsided contract for 70 years to buy and sell our power after the federal government refused to allow Newfoundland and Labrador to transmit our power through Quebec.
Our loss is estimated at 1.3 billion dollars minimum every year � a billion dollars from our resource that goes directly into Quebec�s revenues. Our return is approximately 75 million dollars annually.
And yet this year once again, we see Quebec receive massive benefits from equalization changes while Newfoundland and Labrador is made to beg for what was promised.
At the time of the Upper Churchill contract, the Prime Minister of the day told our Premier that the price of doing otherwise could have been civil unrest in Quebec. Sounds extreme. But the reality is that we made the sacrifice for the sake of national unity.
In entering confederation, we also lost the power to manage our fisheries, and Ottawa in turn used its control of our fishery to trade quotas to other countries in so doing, it mismanaged some species of our domestic fishery to the point of commercial extinction.
As a result of this mismanagement, tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave our province. But even in the face of that great adversity, accepting defeat was never an option for us.
We are determined to cultivate greater moral autonomy � no longer letting others decide what is good for us; but finding our moral compass within and defining our own values and priorities.
We are cultivating greater cultural autonomy and projecting ourselves as a distinct, innovative, determined, courageous and confident people.
And we are cultivating greater financial autonomy by acting responsibly, strategically and competitively.
It�s not separation we crave, but respect. Self-respect breeds self-confidence, self-determination and self-reliance, economically and socially.
Our change in attitude started slowly after the collapse of the ground fishery. We started by diversifying into the shellfish industry and we have recently invested unprecedented amounts of money in aquaculture opportunities.
And we have turned to new economic opportunities including our burgeoning oil and gas sector which has helped to define the new face of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Just recently, John Lau, CEO of Husky Energy stated that the relationship between his company and our province is so transparent that it has resulted in a level of trust that is unusual between companies and governments.
Last week, our provincial budget forecasted a surplus of 261 million dollars, which is an affirmation of the direction our government has taken. Improved revenues, a strengthened economy and fiscal responsibility, have given our province the capacity to make strategic investments in priority areas.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business commended it as a model budget for Atlantic Canada.
In our budget, we announced 32 million dollars specifically for both business attraction and business grants, in addition to more than 70 million dollars in business assistance programs for various sectors.
When you add to this our very competitive business tax regimes, Newfoundland and Labrador has a great deal to offer investors.
But absolutely nothing compares with our bountiful supply of energy. We may not have Alberta�s oil sands, but collectively Newfoundland and Labrador has a tremendous diversity of energy assets.
The Upper Churchill is one of the world�s greatest hydroelectric-generating stations, and at the Lower Churchill River development, there flows one of the continent�s great untapped sources of hydroelectricity; a clean renewable energy source of 2,800 megawatts just waiting to be developed. That is enough power to light up more than one and a half million homes.
The Churchill River developed in total would be the clean equivalent of 225,000 barrels of oil a day forever and the equivalent of taking 3 million cars off the road. Clean electricity at its very finest. If the federal government wants a green initiative there is no better place to start.
In addition, Labrador has the best wind power regime in North America.
And we are working with your Premier Dalton McGuinty to see if we can deliver some of this energy right here in Ontario where you so desperately need it.
Our challenge is to get cooperation from Quebec and let me tell you they do not make it easy. But we are extremely pleased by the approach of Ontario�s government and particularly the support of Minister Dwight Duncan who has said that this project is an exciting one for your province.
The Ontario government is also a staunch supporter of an east-west power grid, which is fundamental to effectively meeting the future energy needs across this great country.
Unfortunately, Quebec is fundamentally opposed to such a concept with federal government involvement. I cannot understand how opposing such a wonderful national initiative can be considered good for the country � especially in these days of climate change and environmental urgency.
Without Quebec�s cooperation, the alternative for our province will be that we send our power south to New Brunswick and the U.S. They are equally as hungry this is a very feasible and real option that we are actively pursuing right now due to stumbling blocks in Quebec.
Newfoundland and Labrador simply cannot allow ourselves to be restricted by a province that monopolizes power transmission.
I am hopeful that Quebec will choose to work with us, as opposed to against us as we start to move this project forward. Stranded clean energy in Labrador and the North West Territories is a green setback for the country.
And I would hope that they would not oppose potential federal participation, just as we do not oppose the substantial federal contributions and industry subsidies that annually bolster the Quebec economy.
As all provinces do, we depend upon federal government dollars to an extent but we have also made substantial and meaningful contributions to this country.
For example, over the course of the life of our current offshore oil and gas projects, the federal government will receive an estimated 20 billion dollars, and our nickel from Voisey�s Bay helps to employ workers in Ontario and Manitoba thereby feeding into your economies.
If you extrapolate the numbers in simplistic terms, it is estimated that 25 % of INCO�s Sudbury workforce and 38% of the Thompson workforce are employed as the result of nickel coming from Newfoundland and Labrador.
So contrary to some myths, we do contribute to this great country.
Newfoundland and Labrador�s three offshore oil projects to date have generated about 11 billion dollars for the companies, 5 billion dollars for the federal government and 2 billion dollars for my province.
We have used our new revenues to pay down debt, eliminate our deficit and ultimately achieve credit rating upgrades from our three bond rating agencies.
These revenues have enabled us to turn the fiscal corner and among other things implement personal income tax cuts.
People may say, well things cannot be too bad in your province if you are implementing tax cuts and announcing surpluses. But that is far too simplistic a reaction. We all know that competitive tax regimes are critical to economic diversification and success.
With a competitive business tax regime and now with a competitive personal tax regime we are able to offer our province as an even more attractive place to invest.
Ironically, Newfoundland and Labrador has been described disparagingly as the poor cousin of Confederation � as defeatists who do not want to or know how to take care of ourselves.
Recent national editorials � which are not worthy of repeating - summarize some of the more xenophobic attitudes towards me and my province. These same papers disparage us and berate our position. But when I sent an opinion editorial piece to the Globe and Mail to defend our position, they refused to print it.
When our province brought down our fiscally and socially responsible budget last week, our best budget in decades � not one word was printed. Not a story, not a sidebar, not a mention.
When federal money went to Quebec to facilitate tax cuts, the story was still about Newfoundland and Labrador whining and complaining.
When we as a province implement tax cuts on our own merit and financial responsibility, they do not bother to report that to the rest of the country.
A misinformed author of the Western Standard recently implied that my province has a "culture of defeat" and � I assume this was my biggest offence of all � I actually had the nerve to insist that the Prime Minister keep an election commitment. The same Prime Minister who attributed a culture of defeat to all Atlantic Canadians in 2002.
A Prime Minister named Stephen Harper who in 2001 said that Liberal ridings west of Winnipeg are "dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from Eastern Canada: people who live in ghettos and who are not integrated in Western Canadian society." A sad commentary indeed.
And to be clear, the Prime Minister�s commitment - given verbally and in writing on countless occasions � was that non-renewable natural resource revenues would be removed from the equalization formula. His promise had nothing to do with protecting the Atlantic Accord as he claims today. Those words were never even mentioned by him when he was looking for our votes.
In promising to remove non-renewable resource revenues from the equalization formula, he explained his reason of economic development by saying "the hope is if you leave the resource royalties there, they will generate over time much larger permanent revenue flows in other areas which is what the experience in Alberta has been."
So you can imagine my surprise when in this years budget that promise was not only ignored; but the Prime Minister decided to also penalize us while bolstering other provinces like Quebec.
In addition, he has decided to unilaterally make changes to the Atlantic Accord, which we fought so hard to achieve with Paul Martin�s government, and put a cap on our ability to benefit financially.
In doing so, he has breached the letter, spirit and intent of an agreement between two governments that was signed to develop an industry.
Now, I know there has been much debate about what this cap means. Many think � because the federal government has chosen to spin it this way � that Newfoundland and Labrador wants to be richer than Ontario. We want to have a greater fiscal capacity and still take equalization. We want to double dip.
This is simplistic and an easy and attractive argument for the federal government to make. But let�s face the facts here folks. Does anyone in this room honestly believe that Newfoundland and Labrador is fiscally better off than Ontario?
Do people honestly believe that a fiscal cap figure � one that is fundamentally artificial due to the manner in which it is calculated � means that the people of our province are richer or better off than the people of Ontario? Here are the facts.
Our debt expense per capita for every man, woman and child is twice that of the next worst province in the country. Our unemployment rate is the highest in the country at 14.8 percent compared to 6.3 percent nationally.
Our per capita disposable income is the lowest in the country, and our per capita incomes are the lowest in the country with real incomes 26 percent below the national average.
Our population is more widely dispersed that any other province with 1.4 people per square km compared to 12 per square km in Ontario, making essential services more costly to deliver.
These are the real facts about our fiscal capacity. If debt expense alone was deducted we would be below Ontario�s fiscal capacity.
But we are working hard and making real progress to turn all of these indicators around for our province.
The Prime Minister�s complete lack of recognition of his promise is only slightly less alarming than his seemingly "anything to win a majority" attitude. This attitude has now extended to his Finance Minister condoning federal finance officials providing misleading information to independent economists in order to reach inaccurate conclusions to foster a deceptive agenda.
When the federal Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister resort to these tactics to win at all costs, Canadians beware. This is conduct unbecoming elected officials in the highest offices in our country and moreover it is dangerous.
Just two weeks ago, while Minister Flaherty was trying to convince Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that his government had not misled our province, his own officials were apologizing in writing for doing exactly that. While the Prime Minister and his finance minister continue to untruthfully state they kept their promise their own Deputy House Leader MP Tom Lukiwski, admitted they did not.
Over the last month, I have cautioned the Canadian people about the trustworthiness of this government and their propensity to provide misleading and inaccurate information to further their own interests.
Government�s handling of the Afghanistan detainee situation verify this as well, as do the recent words of Al Gore when he stated that this government�s climate change plan is a complete fraud designed to mislead the Canadian people. We should be very leery of this pattern.
That is why I am encouraging Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and Canadians in the next federal election to vote ABC � Anything But Conservative.
When we signed the Atlantic Accord there was elation and euphoria throughout our province. Finally, the fiscally poorest partner in confederation would have the opportunity to use its own resources to kick-start the kind of growth that would build a sustainable future.
Once that oil and gas is pumped out it is gone for good. Each and every development has a defined shelf life and when the resource is gone, so too is our ability to use the financial benefits for our province�s good.
And though we have some great projects on stream, they will not last forever. Hibernia will not last through my children�s lifetime, nor mine if I live to see 70.
The issue for me it is not about handouts from Ottawa. It is about allowing us to use our resources to our own advantage, so that once they are gone we do not revert back to the fiscal reliance that existed in our province before oil and gas development.
We are truly in a catch-22 situation where we cannot escape fiscal dependency without developing these resources and yet if we develop them the benefits will be clawed away from us so that we will never be able to use them to escape fiscal dependency.
So why would a Prime Minister break a written promise that significantly penalizes our province?
I think the answer is fairly clear. We are facing a federal election and in the House of Commons there is no equality among provinces. Seats are distributed by population, and unfortunately for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador our numbers are often not deigned significant enough to matter.
It is shameful that our quest to have a Prime Minister keep a written commitment to our people is ridiculed while a commitment to the province of Quebec resulting in several hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade is ignored.
This Prime Minister stood up in the commons in the last week and mocked a milestone Newfoundland and Labrador budget. We don�t deserve that kind of treatment. We are too honest and hard working and proud a people.
We don�t begrudge others improving their lot, but don�t pit provinces against one other. Don�t take from one to give to another. Don�t break firm written commitments. Honor them. And if other provinces suffer by virtue of your promises then find another means to make them whole.
Not only was the promise broken, but as I alluded to earlier the federal government has since misled an independent economist in our province. They allowed a decent and honest man to put his reputation on the line by feeding him information that was inaccurate to the point where this economist had to go public and release emails from federal officials who admitted they misled him.
It was the most shameful, dishonourable thing I have ever witnessed in politics. To this day, the federal finance minister insists they did nothing wrong. And they continue to get away with this blatant misleading of the public.
I can tell you now that if this Prime Minister can so easily and blatantly break a promise to us, just imagine what he will do to you if he wins a majority government.
His word is meaningless. His promises are lip service to win votes. And he will do absolutely whatever he has to in order to win power.
You may not agree with my position and maybe you don�t agree with the promise that Stephen Harper made to our province. But that does not change the fact that he made the promise, he broke his promise and you could be next. Let our experience be a lesson to all Canadians.
Collectively, we as fellow Canadians make Canada stronger by enabling one another to use our individual strengths to enrich the federation and make all of us stronger than we would otherwise be.
Let�s start realizing that national unity is absolutely meaningless unless it is backed up by tangible actions that enable us to live up to our optimum potential and stand securely on our own strengths.
I encourage the Prime Minister to consider the words of George Washington "Undertake not what you cannot perform but be careful to keep your promise."
His failure to do so will be to the detriment of this great country.
Let all of us as Canadians work even harder than ever before to make Canada what it truly ought to be � a land of promise and opportunity, not just at the centre, but also at Canada�s rural hinterlands where our ancestors learned hard but true lessons that there is no survival without friendship and cooperation and most importantly trust.
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