Ottawa announced $1.5-billion in new environmental funding Monday, with the cash earmarked to help provinces battle climate change.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement in Sherbrooke, Que., alongside Quebec Premier Jean Charest. Quebec's share of the cash would total about $350-million. The money will be available under the Canada Eco-Trust and Clean Air Fund.
The outlay will be contained in the Conservatives' budget and will be part of Ottawa's efforts on the fiscal imbalance, Mr. Harper said.
The money will be available to the provinces once the budget receives approval from Parliament.
Tying this expenditure to budget approval puts the Bloc and the Liberals, in particular, on shaky ground. Harper makes the announcement in Quebec, with a dollar figure attached, Charest by his side. The other provinces are clearly an afterthought, Harper frames the issue- vote for the budget or deny Quebec 350 million. A partial resolution of the fiscal imbalance, the Bloc is cornered. If Duceppe votes against the upcoming budget, then Harper is well-armed heading into an election. Harper challenges the Bloc argument that they are in the H of C to protect Quebec's interest. How do you spin 350 million as bad for Quebec?
The Liberals are also declawed to an extent. I heard one commentary say the Liberals are reduced to complaining, while the Conservatives steal all their initiatives. It is almost irrelevant that the 1.5 billion is almost idential to the 250 million over 5 years the Liberals were negotiating, Harper can claim he got it done. All the signals from the Liberals suggest they will vote against the budget, but this announcement complicates the question. Again, do you want to head into an election voting against a sizable environmental initiative?
The problem, this announcement is actually a good idea. Tied to results, targeted, it's an objectively good plan. It's not a solution, nor does it detract from the bigger questions, but a solid move, even if it lacks originality. From time to time I've questioned the "master strategist" label attached to Harper, but I must say today is a strategic jewel. Harper also said he wants the budget passed, but another angle is he banks on rejection, which now includes the added bonus of punishing Quebec. Today has surely left opposition strategists scratching their heads.