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Cash-strapped Newfoundland and Labrador wants talks on 2005 Atlantic Accord

Last Updated Feb 13, 2018 at 3:20 pm EDT

The Hibernia platform stands tall above the waters of Bull Arm, Trinity Bay, Nfld. N.L. Premier Dwight Ball calling for talks with Ottawa on the 2005 Atlantic Accord. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier wants to meet with Justin Trudeau to discuss how much the province has earned from offshore oil developments.

Dwight Ball says he has written to the prime minister asking for talks on the 2005 Atlantic Accord, which must be reviewed before April 2019.

The review will assess the extent to which the province has reaped majority benefit from its offshore resources and lasting economic gains.

It will also look at equalization requirements and fiscal gaps between Newfoundland and Labrador and other provinces.

Ball told an oil and gas industry conference Tuesday the time is now for these talks as his Liberal government faces mounting debt.

“This review is timely in light of the fiscal challenges facing our province, our misnomer as a ‘have’ province under the current equalization framework, and the lingering uncertainty around the federal government’s new environmental assessment process,” said his speaking notes.

Newfoundland and Labrador became a “have” province in 2008 and stopped receiving equalization payments but was hit hard when oil prices collapsed starting in 2014.

Ball said he also has questions about the role of the joint regulator for offshore oil projects under the sweeping new national assessment bill introduced this month in the House of Commons. He said it’s vital that the province continue to have input through the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB).

“We need exploration projects to go through the C-NLOPB process rather than through the Impact Assessment Agency,” he said.

The proposed Impact Assessment Act would require that new energy developments be approved or denied within two years.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has said it will clarify how the process works along with what companies must do and how decisions are reached.

Under the new act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency would become the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. It would review not just environmental factors but also health, social, and economic effects along with impacts on Indigenous rights.