Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Could be the mouse that roared - an Atlantic Discord update

There is a mess at play in our federation today. Harper's desperate to keep his cabinet together, Junior MacKay's fighting for a deal for N.S. for his own political future, and three provinces are going their own ways and letting Harper pick and choose his strategy through their disunity. Someone needs to step up and bring some clarity and leadership to this mess. No one is leading nationally on this thing and it's painful to watch the machinations.

Calvert is making his move today, albeit in a more deliberate and less confrontational manner than MacDonald or Williams. Considering the legal implications for his province and its ownership of its natural resources: "Saskatchewan eyes legal challenge." I kind of like to see this approach being brought into the mix. Has more of a long term and statesman-like look. Still says I have 12 Conservative MP's representing me in Ottawa and I'm telling my citizens I'm not happy with them. Yet on the other hand, makes a serious move stepping above the politics and saying I think the law supports me here and I think the adults need to take control of this situation. Good for him. Could be the mouse that roared. I wish the other two would consider signing on to this approach with Calvert. Here's some of what Calvert said today:
But Mr. Calvert stressed that the legal challenge will not be about a broken promise.

“If I were to hire lawyers to sue on every broken promise from Mr. Harper so far, I don't think we have enough lawyers,” he said.

“It will fundamentally be based on provisions within the Constitution around equalization, around fairness and equity and the provision that natural resources belong to the people of Saskatchewan.”
“It's not particularly political, in terms of we need a ruling on this that would apply to any federal government as they apply equalization to the people of Saskatchewan,” Mr. Calvert said. “We need to get this right.”
I think this is a useful approach that may bring some much needed clarity to the federal-provincial equalization battles, to remedy what Bill Casey suggested yesterday:
Mr. Casey, who spent much of the day handing reporters photocopies of amendments to the accord contained in the federal budget, said even if the province succeeds in negotiating a new deal, it wouldn’t be the accord, and it wouldn’t be good.

"If a province was to strike out, renegotiate a side deal . . . it sets a precedent that every federal-provincial agreement can be cancelled by the federal government and force the provinces back to negotiate on their terms, long before the contract expires."
And about that side deal, Danny Millions has got some advice for Rod MacDonald. Methinks MacDonald needs to be listening:
The Newfoundland premier said his Nova Scotia counterpart “lowered the bar” in his discussions with the federal government.

“I didn’t just like the optics of the federal government playing with him while he was in Ottawa last night,” Mr. Williams told reporters in Newfoundland on Wednesday.

Mr. Williams said there was “obviously a lot of manipulation that’s going on” and Mr. MacDonald should “tread very lightly.”

“If the prime minister sees an area of weakness and wants to play on it, if he can get away with it, so be it. But I’ll have to wait and see what Premier MacDonald accepts. If he accepts something less, he’s got to answer to himself and answer to the people of Nova Scotia for that.”
Whatever this side deal or "implementation language" is should not be entered into has the potential to set a bad precedent and Williams and Calvert seem to get that. MacDonald - who appears to be under extreme pressure right now in terms of the optics of what he needs to do at home and by a federal party petrified at the fall out of this thing - needs to think carefully about what he's doing. Consider this study now thrown into the mix late today. It seems to me that if the provinces' interests are aligned, they should be acting together.