Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP Bill Casey speaks at Mount Allison University. Katie Tower - Transcontinental Media
SACKVILLE - He says he was simply doing his job. So Bill Casey says he continues to be amazed when he is repeatedly referred to as a renegade or a maverick or a rebel MP.
The now-independent Member of Parliament, who was ousted from the Conservative party after voting against the budget last March, says he only wanted the government to respect the deal that had been made with his province.
"I find it amazing that I'm considered an 'embattled' member of parliament," he says. "I don't feel embattled, I don't feel like a rebel or a renegade . . . it fascinates me because all I did was ask the government to honour a signed contract."
Casey, who represents the Nova Scotia riding of Cumberland, Colchester and Musquodoboit Valley, was speaking, of course, about the Atlantic Accord - a deal between the federal government and the provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, which was originally struck in 1986 and later amended in 2005, to protect those provinces' offshore oil and gas revenues
Casey, the final speaker in Mount Allison University's Leadership Speakers' series, spoke to a crowd of students and interested residents Monday night at Crabtree Auditorium about how he is troubled by the attitude displayed by the government toward Atlantic Canada and the disrespect it showed when making changes to the Accord in the budget earlier this year.
"This is a critical important contract for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and not one member from Atlantic Canada was consulted (about the changes)," he says. "I believe the attitude is they dismissed us. And for our area to be treated that way, I find offensive."
Although Casey says he was originally told by both the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister that there were no changes to the Atlantic Accord forthcoming in the budget, a bit of research soon revealed the true picture.
"I had been told there wasn't a comma changed. But when I went back and did my homework, which I should have done in the first place, I found seven pages of amendments and I was really startled."
The MP says he believes those changes took away the most fundamental parts of the Accord. And although he says he returned to Ottawa and tried to re-ignite discussions with Jim Flaherty and Stephen Harper over the amendments, those talks didn't reap any results.
"At some point it became very clear to me that we're trying to find a resolution and they aren't. I realized these people are just not dealing in good faith with the people of Nova Scotia."
So he quickly made it clear he would be voting against the budget if the amendments weren't reversed. And so he did.
"They didn't honour their deal, it's that simple. If everybody broke contracts, we couldn't operate as a society," says Casey.
He says he believes the government showed its true colours towards Atlantic Canada by not notifying Nova Scotia or Newfoundland of the coming changes.
"I don't believe for one second the government of Canada would do that to Alberta. I'm afraid they have an opinion of us and they're not making any effort to find out if that opinion is correct. There doesn't seem to be any interest to find out about Atlantic Canada and what we are and what the challenges are."
Casey says he will run as an independent candidate for the next election and insists he doesn't have any plans to move to another party, although he was careful to note things can change.