Finance Minister Michael Baker brought Nova Scotia’s case for strengthening equalization and protecting the Offshore Accord to Ottawa today, Nov. 7, to the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance. Mr. Baker pointed out that the fiscal inequities that exist between and among the provinces and territories, if left unchecked, could affect the future prosperity of the nation. “If equalization is not adequately funded, or worse still, watered down, regional disparities will simply widen,” said Mr. Baker. “If Canada is to be a true country, Canadians must receive a relatively equal level of services no matter where they live. That is the minimum all Canadians have a right to expect.” Mr. Baker also clarified the facts surrounding Nova Scotia’s Offshore Accord, and addressed the myth that the accord undermines the principles of equalization. “Nova Scotia’s offshore resource revenues are fully accounted for in the equalization formula,” said Mr. Baker. “They increase the benefits available to equalization-receiving provinces.” Further, the minister reminded the committee that the accord honours agreements, dating back to the early 80s, with the federal government linked to constitutional commitments supporting economic prosperity. The accords state the province would be the principle beneficiary of offshore revenues until it achieved an agreed upon fiscal capacity. Mr. Baker said more money for equalization should not come at the expense of other essential federal transfer programs. Twenty-two federal-provincial agreements are set to expire in Nova Scotia inn 2006-07, valued at almost $32 million. Mr. Baker’s remarks are available on the province’s fiscal imbalance website at www.gov.ns.ca/finance/fiscal . This website was launched earlier this fall to help Nova Scotians understand the implications of proposed changes and to be more actively involved in bringing about decisions that are not just fair to Nova Scotians, but that benefit the country as a whole. A federal decision to address the fiscal imbalance issue within Canada is expected in this winter.