Thursday, May 11, 2006

Find Waldo

There seems to be a common theme emerging with this government, wherein they cancel items, but don’t admit the obvious, instead offering a future carrot to deflect criticisms. The Tories slash and burn on all things environment is deflected by this future phantom initiative known as “made in Canada”. The government isn’t cutting, or reneging on its promises, it is merely re-tooling. We see this shell game again here:
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.


CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

What can Ontario's Premier, Dalton McGuinty, do given the by now obvious strategy of Harper?

Simple. He can take a stand on principle: that such decisions should be made by the people. McGuinty can make the whole backroom-dealing process transparent by simply stating right now that he requires two things to take place: (1) that all meetings of Premiers on this subject be open to the public, and televised; and (2) that he will not agree to any deal unless it has been put to the voters of Ontario through a plebescite.

This will immediately make the whole process of nation-changing more democratic, put pressure on the Premiers of all provinces to consider voters as well and perhaps adopt similar plebescites, and relieve McGuinty of any pressure to rush into a deal "in the interests of Canada" (as John Tory has tried to frame it).

So, Dalton: strike a blow for democracy. Call for transparency in meetings of Premiers on this "backroom Meech Lake Deal", and have Ontario voters decide the issue.

Niles said...

Yes, please Mr. Harper. Annoy Ontario voters by punishing them for not making you a majority government while electing Liberals at the provincial level.