Offshore talks about more than money, Williams says

Newfoundland premier praises his province for showing the country the meaning of honour in its negotiations for a new offshore energy deal.

Newfoundland and Labrador's premier praised his province Monday for showing the country the meaning of honour in its negotiations for a new offshore energy deal.

"The efforts to secure a better deal on the Atlantic Accord was about more than money for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador," Premier Danny Williams said in a speech at a St. John's hotel as he gave details of the federal-provincial deal, reached late Friday in Ottawa.

"It was about integrity and it was about honour and it was about pride. I can tell you all today that I have never been more proud to call myself a Newfoundlander."

Williams, who beamed and joked as he spoke to loud applause from the crowd, which included almost all the members of his cabinet, said the agreement would allow the province "to be the beneficiary of its resources for the first time ever."

He also called for a round of clapping for Prime Minister Paul Martin, even though the outspoken premier had accused Martin of betraying the province during months of talks on the revenue-sharing deal.

10 hours of talks sealed deal

Newfoundlanders have hailed Williams as a hero for bagging the deal, which promises Newfoundland and Labrador a minimum of $2.6 billion and Nova Scotia at least $830 million over an eight-year period.

Under this agreement, reached Friday night after 10 straight hours of negotiations, the two provinces will keep all their revenues from energy royalties and will continue to receive equalization payments until they reach the average standard.

If that standard isn't reached by 2012, the deal can be extended another eight years.

During the second eight-year period, if the provinces no longer qualify for equalization, they will receive transitional payments for two years.

The federal government currently claws back up to 70 per cent of energy royalties by adjusting equalization funds.

Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm also spoke publicly on the deal Monday, using a hockey analogy to describe how he felt about clinching it three days before.

"I had to stand in front of the net a lot longer than I realized four years ago," said Hamm, who has been premier since July 2000, "but Friday night the puck came out of the corner and we scored."