Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saskatoon Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott continues to shamelessly say equalization promise kept; Skelton, Yelich & Trost fare no better

“This equalization issue significantly affects the future of Saskatchewan and we need to work together to ensure a bright future for our province. Ralph Goodale should not stand in the way and in this vital matter should allow our province to be treated the same as Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Saskatchewan is not receiving a fair deal.”

Over the past ten years, Saskatchewan would have been entitled to about $4 billion more in equalization payments if the province was to receive the same deal as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
– Maurice Vellacott, MP Saskatoon-Wanuskewin (February 9, 2005, News Release)

Saskatchewan needs a new deal that would allow the province to keep 100 per cent of its revenues from non-renewable natural resources,” said Yelich. “While the Prime Minister is in Saskatchewan this week, he has the perfect opportunity to show his commitment to the province.”

A new equalization deal, similar to those made with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, could mean an estimated $825 million a year in revenues for Saskatchewan.
– Lynne Yelich, MP Blackstrap (August 24, 2005, News Release)

“Let me give you a 100 per cent guarantee, Prime Minister Harper will give Saskatchewan the best deal it's ever had from any prime minister ever,” he said.

Asked if that would be the same deal the Conservatives campaigned on, Trost said: “If it isn’t, it better be better.”
– Brad Trost, MP Saskatoon-Humboldt (August 23, 2006, CBC News)

“It is unacceptable that Saskatchewan does not receive a fair deal.”

Over the past decade, the people of Saskatchewan could have been entitled to about $4 billion more in equalization payments if the province had received the same deal as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador.
– Carol Skelton, MP Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar (February 9, 2005, News Release)

The “big lie” continues.

This week saw the release of another one of Saskatoon-Wanuskewin Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott’s ridiculously oversized “Householder” mailings to his constituents.

The Summer 2007 edition continues to peddle the preposterous claim that the Harper government kept it’s equalization promise to Saskatchewan in its March 2007 budget.

The Federal Conservatives promised full exclusion of non-renewable resource revenues from Equalization, a deal which would have benefited the people of Saskatchewan by approximately $800 million per year.

The March 2007 federal budget brought into effect a new equalization formula with a cap that effectively claws back Saskatchewan’s non-renewable resource revenues.

Instead of letting Saskatchewan people retain $800 million of revenue from its non-renewable resources every year going forward, the cap reduces the benefits to a one-time payment of $226 million in 2007-08, falling to zero next year and beyond. This is not what the federal government promised.

In the House of Commons on May 15, 2007, in a recorded vote, Saskatchewan’s 12 Conservative Members of Parliament voted in favour of breaking their promise to Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan’s Conservative MPs failed to stand up for their province.

This was the same bunch that met privately on July 19, 2006, for roundtable discussions where the dominant issue was the matter of equalization. In a subsequent letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on July 25, 2006, Saskatchewan Conservative Caucus Chair Brian Fitzpatrick wrote:

“All members present believed that anything less than substantial compliance with our committment will cause us no end of political difficulty during the next federal election. The two major Saskatchewan daily newspapers have made it abundantly clear that there is very little “wiggle room” for the Conservative government and its Saskatchewan MPs on this issue.”

Prior to that in a June 10, 2005, news release Vellacott affirmed “the Conservative Party’s recommendation that non-renewable natural resource revenues be removed from the equalization formula in order to encourage the development of economic growth in the non-renewable resource sectors across Canada.”

There was no mention of a cap.

On February 9, 2005, Vellacott issued this news release:
Vellacott supports joint effort with Premier on Equalization

The Saskatchewan Conservative Caucus has sent a letter requesting a meeting with Saskatchewan Premier Calvert to discuss the unfair situation regarding equalization. The Saskatchewan Conservative MPs are calling for a joint effort to ensure that Saskatchewan receives the same equalization deal recently offered to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Vellacott said, “This equalization issue significantly affects the future of Saskatchewan and we need to work together to ensure a bright future for our province. Ralph Goodale should not stand in the way and in this vital matter should allow our province to be treated the same as Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Saskatchewan is not receiving a fair deal.”

Over the past ten years, Saskatchewan would have been entitled to about $4 billion more in equalization payments if the province was to receive the same deal as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Vellacott says, “Minister Goodale and the federal Liberal government have been treating Saskatchewanians like second class citizens. Finance Minister Goodale is not standing up for our province and offers pathetic justifications for why Saskatchewan should continue to get shafted.”
Two years later and it’s the Conservatives turn to shaft Saskatchewan.

In Equalization: great deal or election lie? (May 30, 2007) the Regina Leader-Post reported that “National Revenue Minister Carol Skelton, MP for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, said the federal budget gave Saskatchewan $878 million in new money, more per capita than any other province.” This is not what the budget shows.

The Government of Canada provides financial support to provinces and territories primarily through the Canada Health Transfer (CHT), the Canada Social Transfer (CST), Equalization and Territorial Formula Financing (TFF).

According to the federal finance department the estimated support through major transfers to provinces and territories on a per-capita basis for 2007-08 is:

Nunavut – $30,446
Northwest Territories – $20,368
Yukon – $18,862
Prince Edward Island – $3,484
New Brunswick – $3,369
Nova Scotia – $3,006
Manitoba – $2,999
Quebec – $2,436
Newfoundland and Labrador – $2,325
Alberta – $1,699
Saskatchewan – $1,685
Ontario – $1,636
British Columbia – $1,589

As it turns out Saskatchewan is the third lowest.

Furthermore, in a May 16, 2007, news release Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert pointed out that the $878-million figure was “misleading” and “shouldn’t fool anyone” because:
– 85 per cent of that amount is one-time funding, a far cry from permanent changes to Equalization that would have $800 million to Saskatchewan every year;

– it includes funding for a project that may not even be approved ($180 million for Iogen’s biofuel project); and

– the figure includes Saskatchewan’s share of national programs - in other words, this is not a special deal.
In his mail-out Vellacott claims: “Premier Lorne Calvert's double-talk on the equalization issue is hurting his credibility. Desperate to distract voters from his horrible record as Premier, Calvert is attempting to fool people in Saskatchewan on the equalization issue.”

On the contrary, some of the NDP provincial government’s achievements in just the past year alone include:

– Saskatchewan having the largest free wireless network in Canada.

– Government debt forecast to be $6.9 billion at year-end, the lowest it’s been since 1990-91.

– Government debt-to-GDP ratio is forecast at 14.7 per cent, the lowest it’s been in more than 20 years.

– In July 2007 construction began on the University of Saskatchewan’s new Academic Health Sciences Centre. In 2005 the Government invested $100 million for the project, the single largest capital contribution by the province to a university.

– This year Saskatchewan officially became an international affiliate of The Energy Council, an American organization of state legislators focused on energy and environment-related policy concerns.

– Saskatchewan’s total crime rate decreased 4 per cent in 2006 – the third consecutive year of decline in the provincial rate.

– In June 2007 Saskatchewan marked 15 straight record months for people working in the province.

– The new Saskatchewan Labour Market Commission (SLMC) was created through legislation in March 2007, bringing together influential representatives from labour, business, First Nations and Metis, the social economy, the training system and government. The SLMC will provide strategic advice directly to government on substantive provincial, regional and sectoral labour market trends, issues and strategies.

– Saskatchewan was tied for the second lowest unemployment rate in Canada in June at 3.9 per cent (seasonally unadjusted), down 0.2 percentage points from June 2006 and below the national rate of 5.6 per cent.

– Specific tax reductions in 2007 include: Reducing the general Corporate Capital Tax rate on existing capital from 0.3 per cent to 0.15 per cent on July 1, 2007 and fully eliminating it on July 1, 2008; Reducing the general Corporate Income Tax rate from 14 per cent to 13 per cent on July 1, 2007 and reducing it further to 12 per cent on July 1, 2008; and increasing the small business threshold from $400,000 to $450,000 on July 1, 2007, and increasing it further to $500,000 on July 1, 2008.

– On January 1, 2007, the small business tax rate was reduced from five per cent to 4.5 per cent.

– Expansion of Innovation Place in Regina with a new building to be constructed at 2 Research Drive on the Regina campus. The three storey 6,596 square metre building will cost approximately $173 million and will complement the existing structure which will undergo extensive renovations.

– The sale of Crown petroleum and natural gas rights in June 2007 collected $14.1 million in revenue for the province. The new monies bring this year’s total revenue to $112.9 million, a 10 per cent increase over last year’s near-record pace of $102.2 million.

– This year the province announced the allocation of 550 new child care spaces to early learning and child care centres across the province at a cost of $1.4 million for 2007-08. Once all of these new spaces are in operation, the province will have increased spaces in Saskatchewan by 2,000; or 28 per cent in the past five years.

– Saskatchewan set oil and gas production records for the 2006 calendar year. A record breaking 761 horizontal wells were drilled beating the previous record of 668 set in 1997. Crude oil production totalled 24.84 million cubic metres, slightly more than the 2001 record of 24.75. A total of over 9.58 billion cubic metres of natural gas was produced, breaking 2005’s record of 9.49 billion cubic metres.

– In 2006 SaskEnergy delivered the lowest natural gas rates in Canada.

– Budget 2007-08 made record investments in infrastructure and communities, with the largest ever budgeted capital program of $534.8 million. This includes a record $127.3 million in revenue sharing for municipalities (a $30 million increase over Budget 2006-07), $58.2 million for municipal infrastructure, and $40 million to sport, culture, and recreation facilities through the Building Communities program.

– Saskatchewan introduced a new $15 Senior’s Drug Plan – the most significant expansion of Medicare in a generation.

– 14th consecutive balanced budget.

– In March 2007 Saskatchewan became among the first jurisdictions to introduce job protection for reservists.

– On March 16, 2007, it was announced that the Government of Saskatchewan committed $24.7 million to the University of Saskatchewan’s International Vaccine Centre (InterVac).

– In February 2007 the province announced a $100 million plan to revitalize Saskatchewan neighbourhoods with the greatest need. The plan includes $60 million to provide the single, largest expansion of HomeFirst for affordable housing for families in northern communities and the inner cities of Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and North Battleford. A further $40 million will support inner city initiatives in Regina and Saskatoon targeted at education and skills training and the development of healthy, vibrant neighbourhoods.

– The Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program issued 1,027 nominations in 2006, which exceeded the year’s target by more than 200. Compared to the 401 nominations issued in 2005, this represents an increase of 150 per cent.

– Finally, in November 2006 Saskatchewan received its 16th credit rating upgrade since 1995 as Dominion Bond Rating Service (DBRS) boosted its long-term rating for the province from A (high) to AA (low). This came only three days after Moody’s Investor Service upgraded the Province’s credit rating from Aa2 to Aa1. The DBRS ranking marked the sixth credit rating upgrade for the province under Premier Calvert’s leadership.

Saskatchewan could use 12 less Conservative MPs in Ottawa.


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