Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's department made a last-minute change to the budget that allows cars built at the General Motors plant next to his riding to qualify for federal climate-change incentives even though environmentalists say the cars are gas guzzlers.
Government officials privately confirmed that as recently as one week before last Monday's federal budget was finalized, the rebates for fuel-efficient cars did not include vehicles with engines capable of running on E85, a gasoline made up of 85 per cent ethanol.
The two six-cylinder vehicles, the Chevrolet Impala and the Monte Carlo, are produced at the GM plant in Oshawa, a riding narrowly won by the Conservatives in the past two elections. The plant is minutes away from Mr. Flaherty's riding of Whitby-Oshawa, where the local economy is closely linked to the GM plant, with many residents employed at GM or in spin-off jobs tied to the plant.
But officials outside of the Finance Department who saw draft versions a week before the budget was finished said E85 vehicles were not in those documents. The officials noted that E85 vehicles were inserted at the end of the process by Finance officials, rather than by officials from other departments with policy expertise in the area.
What is the Finance Department doing inserting vehicles which qualify for rebates? Shouldn't there be some consultation with experts to detemine criteria? The fact that Flaherty inserted these vehicles, at the last minute, does suggest a motivation other than environmental concerns. Not only does Flaherty insulate a local car manufacturer from potential harm, he actually subsidizes this industry, ensuring robust sales. I view this announcemnt as indirect pork, it is no coincidence where these plants operate.