Monday, June 11, 2007


I thought the Conservatives handled the detainee issue badly, but that looks like brillant competence compared to the self-inflicted wound that is equalization. Flaherty has managed to alienate everyone, please nobody, and receive nothing for his troubles. The Prime Minister, jugular mentality on full display, raises the temperature exponentially by threatening to go to the courts:
"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."


ottlib said...


We are going to finally get a Green Member of Parliament.

MrvnMouse said...

Ottlib? what? How does that follow from this?

Steve V said...


At the very least, it gives May an embarrassing talking point, in what should be one of the most high-profile ridings.

Scotian said...


Because MacKay is likely to take a real beating in his riding over this, that's why. Don't think he isn't either, I must admit I am a little surprised at the raw intensity/heat this issue is having in this Province, and not just among the punditocracy but in the coffee shops and on the busses as well. This does not bode well for the chances of any CPCer that stands with Harper instead of Casey and MacDonald, which seeing as MacKay is a cabinet minister in this government and will support this means he will be wearing this. Both in his own right as a NS MP AND supposedly as NS's voice at the cabinet table.

MrvnMouse said...


If anything the NDP may get this riding considering it was running:

Conservative 40.66%
NDP 32.89%
Liberal 24.56%
Green 1.59%

So let's say All of the Lib vote goes to Green, what do we have

26.15% for May

Which means if the NDP gets no boost at all from this, May would need to get 6% more.

I would love to see a Green, but that just seems kinda outrageous. Especially if the NDP run a star candidate there.

Steve V said...

A long, longshot, no question. Although, I've added an update to the post which could further isolate MacKay.


Nice to see you around :)

Karen said...

AND supposedly as NS's voice at the cabinet table.

As it relates to Mackay, I think that is the bigger issue and one that May can go to town on. "He was your voice and he did not defend you"...kind of thing.

As for Harper, watching that news conference today, I have to say I was stunned. I thought, did I just hear the PM say we're going to sue you?

I'm not from the region, but I can only imagine how they are feeling at the moment. I have spent a good deal of time in NS however and anyone who has will know that there is a of honour there and likewise in Newfoundland & Labrador.

Harper seems to only have an instinct for his supporters in Alberta and even there he has managed to be out of sync.

The country feels so fractured to me, in a way I cannot recall feeling before. There have often been regional battles with Ottawa, Nfld and Quebec of course spring to mind, but now it feels like all regions are reacting to issue after issue, put forward by the government.

Karen said...

Steve re' your update...uh oh!

Steve V said...


I think we can chalk that up to self-preservation :)

Karen said...

Here's an additional tid bit:

Conservative MP Gerald Keddy is in a pressure cooker over the federal budget. On one hand, he is obligated to support his government, on the other hand, he has to please the woman he lives with - Judy Streatch, a Nova Scotia MLA and cabinet minister!

Anonymous said...


Here are some other numbers to consider in the riding of Beauce:

Lib - 19,592
BQ - 17,168
CON - 8,091

Con - 36,915
BQ - 10,997
LIB - 4,364

As you can see, things can change very quickly when people are angry.

Anonymous said...

Harper's trying so hard to buy Quebec, let manufacturing collapse and sucking up to the oil patch - he's pitting one province against the other.

He's not the "Decider" he's the "Divider".

What a flipping mess!

Unknown said...

What baffles me is that there is any question whether this budget violates the Atlantic Accords! However, I can understand the lack of clarity after watching several interviews with Premier MacDonald last night; his sole focus seems to be that Flaherty went public with a letter regarding the "good faith" negotiations.

The budget proposes two 'choices' for Nova Scotia-
a) the Atlantic Accords, with the old equalization formula used to calculate our equalization payment
b) a cap on the Atlantic Accords (thus modifying/terminating the Accord), and equalization payments calculated from the new O'Brien equalization formula, which the other 'have-not' provinces will use because it provides more money.

Here's the problem: when the Atlantic Accords were signed in 2005, it was anticipated that the equalization formulas would change. As stated by Liberal Leader Stephane Dion yesterday, the anticipation of these changes is contained in the Accord: "the accords are very clear...the agreement says the provinces will receive a payment ‘under the equalization formula as it exists at the time.’

So if this contract is upheld, Nova Scotia is entitled to the new equalization formula WITHOUT having to allow caps.

Harper's response to Dion? "Mr. Harper replied that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland can stick with the accords if they stay with the old, less generous equalization system." (Chronicle-Herald)

"It does have a cap, but that cap is not applied in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland because Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have the right to exactly the deal they signed in 2005," he said. "That is the choice. What we will not do is provide a new, enhanced side deal for any province. That would not be fair."(Chronicle-Herald)

*slaps forehead* Will he ever get it? Or, does he think we're so stupid that we won't see how cut and dry this situation is? Down with Harper!

Steve V said...


It really is that simple isn't it.

Unknown said...


I'm not sure whether your comment is facetious or not, but it seems to be black and white to me.

Steve V said...


No, I think you nailed it :)