Nfld. & Labrador

Harper denies claims in N.L. attack ads

Stephen Harper denounced attack ads launched by the Newfoundland and Labrador premier Wednesday, claiming he broke no promises with the new equalization package.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper denounced attack ads launched by the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, claiming he broke no promises with the equalization package included in last week's federal budget.

A full-page ad placed by the Newfoundland and Labrador government appeared in Wednesday's Globe and Mail and other newspapers. ((CBC))
"[Newfoundland and Labrador] is getting 100 per cent of what it was promised," Harper said in the House of Commons.

"We didn't break our promise."

Premier Danny Williams took out advertisements in newspapers across the country on Wednesday, stating that Harper failed to live up to the promises he made leading up to the January 2006 federal election. Harper had vowed not to incorporate non-renewable resources, including royalties from offshore oil, in a revised equalization formula.

"If you make a promise and you don't keep it, then it's up to the people of the country to judge," Williams told CBC News after the ads hit newspaper stands.

"It's quite clear that the promise wasn't kept."

The advertisements appeared in a number of newspapers across the country, including a full-page, colour ad in the Globe and Mail. Williams said the one-day media buy cost about $250,000.

The advertisements echo a proverb that Harper's Conservatives used in campaign literature in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"A promise made should be a promise kept. And as Mr. Harper pointed out, there is no greater fraud than a promise not kept," the ad states.

Thenew equalization formula outlined in the budget offerstwo options: a province can choose to have its equalization payments calculated by including50 per cent of its resources revenue, or by excluding all of it. But the rules impose a cap on the amount of money a province can receive.

Newfoundland and Labrador also hasa thirdchoice —to stick with the existing 2005 Atlantic Accord, which was signed with the previous Liberal government and allows the province to keep its offshore oil revenue.

'We will deliver on the Atlantic Accord,' Tory MP says

"There's no cut to the Atlantic Accord, there's no cap on the Atlantic Accord negotiated by Premier Williams," Conservative MP Loyola Hearn, who represents St. John's South-Mount Pearl, said as Liberal MPs grilled him during Question Period.

"We will deliver on the Atlantic Accord as promised."

The Harper government has said it will not extend the Atlantic Accordwhen it expires, in as little as four years.

Williams said all of the choices laid out in the budget, which was passed in the House of Commons on Tuesday, will mean a financial loss for Newfoundland and Labrador, while other provinces stand to gain.

Hearn, who is the fisheries minister, said this is not the case.

"Newfoundland was given a third choice, to hold on to the benefits of the Atlantic Accord without a cap," he said. "Newfoundland is the biggest winner."

Prime Minister lied, Liberal MP claims

Opposition MPs from Newfoundland andLabrador blasted the equalization choices offered to their province.

"Why did the prime minister lie?" Liberal Bill Matthews, of Burin-St.George's, asked in the House of Commons.

The comment prompted Speaker Peter Milliken to ask Matthews to withdraw his remark. It is considered unparliamentary language to accuse a member of Parliament of lying.

Matthews refused, saying he'd be lying to his constituents if he were to saythe prime minister honoured his commitment.

Williams has already asked Newfoundland and Labrador votersnot to cast ballots for Conservative candidates in the next federal election. In October, after Harper advised him of a change in equalization policy, Williams told a Progressive Conservative convention that his federal Tory cousins should expect a "big goose egg" in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Last week, Nova Scotia — which also signed the Atlantic Accord — reluctantly agreed with the new formula.