Now that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is back from his G8 summit in Germany, the truth about the whole Bill Casey/Atlantic Accord/budget controversy is starting to make itself clear.
Our local MP made rare national headlines last week when he voted against an early budget vote to protest what he perceived as his federal Conservative governments breaching of an agreement reached with the Province of Nova Scotia in 2005. The long-serving loyal Tory was unceremoniously booted from caucus soon after.
When you look at it from different perspectives, this issue becomes complicated, as it involves not just the Atlantic Accord but also the federal/provincial equalization agreement that would boggle the minds of Philadelphias brightest lawyers. But in the Maritimes we take a common sense approach to politics, and when you do that there is no question that Harpers government is breaking the agreement and a promise he made to Atlantic Canadians.
Lets use Caseys former occupation of auto sales for an analogy.
Youre looking for a new car and work tirelessly with the dealer to negotiate the best deal you can. After what seems like endless negotiating, you come up with a satisfactory agreement that allows you to not only get the car you want, but also a 14-year warranty and service package.
Two years later, new owners take over the dealership where you bought the car. They decide they are going to take back the car you purchased, and in turn offer you what they describe as an even better car. If you insist, they will allow you to keep the two-year-old car instead, but theyre not letting you keep the warranty and service package.
In essence, that is what the proposed federal budget does to Atlantic Canada, which had worked out its special deal in an effort to escape from its have-not status. Even former Alberta premier Ralph Klein, who once called Atlantic Canadians a bunch of "hosers," thought it was a good idea.
Bill Casey knows a rat when he smells one and, fortunately for Nova Scotians, he stood up for his region and the integrity of the office he serves. Its a shame his former Atlantic caucus colleagues have yet to do the same.
Stubbornly insisting that the government is honouring the Atlantic Accord, Harper has even threatened to take the matter to court. With that, his strategy is obvious.
The handful of Tory MPs in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are likely to go down to defeat in the next election, and the prime minister seems willing to make that sacrifice in hopes of gaining more support in Ontario and Quebec, portraying Atlantic Canadians as whiners and cry-babies looking for handouts.
The future government may well depend on premiers Danny Williams and Rodney MacDonald, and how well they can convince other Canadians that if they can do it to us, they can do it to you.