Now it appears the Harper government is reneging.
Ontario was counting on the money to help convert coal-fired power plants to natural gas, to expand public transit, to augment funding for universities and community colleges, and to bring the province up to the same level as the rest of the country in federal spending on immigration settlement and job training programs.
In a letter last week to Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty repeats Harper's assurances that the Conservative government "is committed to delivering on the financial commitments" in the McGuinty-Martin deal.
But the rest of Flaherty's letter is densely ambiguous and suggests some of the funding is contingent on "discussions with all provinces and territories on restoring fiscal balance in Canada." (Harper's January letter contained no such qualification.)
The government first said it was committed to the 7 billion for Ontario, now the expenditure is tied to fiscal balance? We need a translator- Ontario isn’t getting the money for its coal-generators and if it every does it will be used as leverage to screw Ontario on fiscal balance. This money was already allocated, Harper said he would honor the agreement and now the government changes the rules. By deferring to the fiscal balance talks, Flaherty can make it look like Ontario will still get the funding, even though this fact speaks to the opposite.
Bottomline, if the government is genuine in its commitment then the money can flow now. The delay creates uncertainty, sends another signal that this government isn’t serious about environmental initiatives and leaves Ontario on the outside again. This government is shrewd when it comes to the dodge and weave, complicating the issues so criticism is muted.