"Normally, I expect that if somebody says you've broken a contract, they're going to follow that up by going to court to make you to abide by that contract. But I don't see that happening. It's an allegation without substance."
Then, in French and English, Harper — who has long held that courts should not intervene in political decisions - said he would put the whole question to some kind of judicial review if the provinces don't.
"I don't think we can let this stand. At some point, we'll consult the courts to see if we've respected the contract," said Harper.
Harper's press secretary Carolyn Stewart-Olsen would not say later what options the government is contemplating, whether it would be a reference over the Atlantic Accord, or in fact a defamation lawsuit against anyone daring to challenge Harper's interpretation.
In a statement issued later, Stewart-Olsen said only: "This is an argument of fact. While we would prefer to continue talks, we are not willing to leave the accusation out there. Nova Scotia must either act on their accusations or drop them. We will wait and see what they will do."
Harper's threats are a NO WIN for the government. Tribunals? Daring the provinces to take you too court? Does this sound like a recipe for resolution, or a sure fire way to maintain animosity and continued focus?
Take today as a microcosm of what is wrong with Stephen Harper. For all the talk of master strategist, Harper doesn't possess basic political instinct. Whatever the situation, Harper seems to lack an understanding of nuance, tact, discretion and diplomacy. Transplant that mentality on a serious international crisis, and you see the potential dangers.
I could see making these recommendations in private, advising Nova Scotia to seek legal opinion. However, to make such a public display, that necessitates a hardening of positions, is unproductive, inflammatory and just plain stupid. Is Harper trying to guarantee that no Tory is left standing on the east coast?
In my mind, the government was already in a no-win situation prior to today's comments by Harper. The damage done, no matter the outcome, the Conservatives would pay a price. What Harper has managed to do is ensure the loss is that much more profound, because he has essentially pitted two governments against each other. I wonder who will win the battle of public opinion?
MacDonald raised the rhetoric today, Harper reacts with threats and escalation. Why through gasoline on the fire? Are these people naive enough to think that a legal struggle is to the feds benefit? Nevermind the fact that issue is muddled, which Harper admits through action:
"that's why we're engaged with talks to see if we couldn't narrow our differences within the context of the budget."
Talks to clarify the legally clear? I don't think so, which is why the threat is even more reckless. Everyday, the way the "team" handles this issue drives home the conclusion that in many ways, this bunch is clueless.
It gets worse:
A second Conservative MP from Nova Scotia could be headed for a showdown with his government over the controversial budget bill.
Gerald Keddy has told The Canadian Press he is meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday to discuss the concerns of people in his province over Ottawa's treatment of offshore resource agreements.
Keddy says he was shocked by the letter, and felt he was now between a "rock and a hard place."