January 10, 2001
For immediate release
Atlantic Ministers of Finance Meeting
Atlantic ministers discussed the importance of achieving greater self-sufficiency in the region and the role of the federal government.
"We are exploring a strategy which would see concrete steps toward greater self-sufficiency in Atlantic Canada and a narrowing of the economic gap with the rest of the country. This will have a positive benefit for both the Atlantic provinces and the country as a whole," said Mr. LeBlanc.
"We will be moving the strategy forward to our premiers for their consideration, with the intent of advancing it for discussion with the federal minister of finance. There is tremendous potential within this region and we must strategically position ourselves to develop it," he said.
The ministers agreed that strategic investment in sustainable economic development will generate greater self-sufficiency in Atlantic Canada and lead to less dependency on the current system of federal transfers.
The Atlantic ministers also reiterated their support for adequate and sustainable federal-provincial fiscal arrangements over the longer term.
"This is key to fulfilling the constitutional commitment that all provinces, including those in Atlantic Canada, be able to provide comparable levels of programs and services at comparable levels of taxation," said Ms. Mella. "Past and current federal constraints on both the equalization program and federal transfers for health care and post-secondary education have severely limited the ability of this region to keep pace with the rest of the country."
The ministers acknowledged that aggressive tax reduction strategies in more affluent provinces are only adding to the pressures of trying to maintain service levels at competitive tax rates.
Once again, the ministers called for the immediate removal of the ceiling on the equalization program and the adoption of the ten-province standard as very real steps towards strengthening the equalization program.
"Following from the prime minister's commitment to first ministers in September 2000, we are eager to reach agreement on steps to address these pressing issues with the federal finance minister and our other provincial colleagues early in this new year," said Mr. Matthews.
The ministers also discussed the new system of income taxation that will be in effect for all provinces commencing in this taxation year.
"It is imperative that a harmonized national taxation system with a common definition of taxable income be maintained," said Mr. Betts. "We urge the federal government to work with provinces to ensure that the tax collection agreements are maintained in the interests of competitiveness and simplicity."