Fight over $3B could spark election
Ignatieff wants to require government to say where extra cash will be spent
OTTAWA–A dispute over a $3 billion emergency fund for the economy has the Liberals and Conservatives lurching toward a possible early election.
The Liberals oppose Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plan to quickly disperse the money without going through the usual parliamentary spending checks, saying it amounts to a Tory slush fund.
But Harper says the emergency cash is critical to the government's economic rescue effort and its approval in the Commons will be a confidence matter, which means opposition parties could defeat the minority government and send Canadians to the polls if they fight it.
Yesterday, in the latest twist in this showdown, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the Liberals will put forward a motion in Parliament next week requiring the government to list the departments and programs on which the $3 billion will be spent.
Ignatieff repeated that he has no intention of giving the government a "complete blank cheque." But he suggested the upcoming Liberal motion offers the Conservatives a possible way out of the impasse.
"I see no reason why the Prime Minister would make it an issue," Igantieff said when asked if he was willing to force an election over the $3 billion.
I see no reason why any of this is an "issue", and I'd love to see the government try and spin it into an election justification. How dare the opposition demand accountability, clearly Parliament is dysfunctional and we need a new mandate. Come on.
Part of the reason the Liberals are pushing hard here, is because they know full well that Harper's bravado is just that. Ignatieff laughed at Harper's threats, because they're really laughable, nothing more, nothing less. Tough guy was still in his Obama afterglow, and he incorrectly assumed it was an opportunity to return to previous partisan form. Problem is, nobody's particularly afraid and the issue is so ridiculously simple, the best spin doctors can't make it fly for the government. Let's get this straight, the party who's "signature" achievement, the thesis for their initial mandate, would force an election because he can't accept simple ACCOUNTABILITY. It all boils down to a soundbite, and any resistance on the part of the Conservatives is a complete and utter LOSER politically.
Canadians support the "probation" idea, and they have no problem with spending being accounted for, it's actually a matter of common sense. Forcing a conflict over this demand, portrays a very simple frame- do you have something to hide, and if not, what's the problem? Harper wants to force an election over accountability, it's almost absurd, and I suspect our reaction has incorporated that dynamic.
In the end, there will be some language that allows the Conservatives to appear as though complete capitulation wasn't required. However, they will "walk back down the hill", AGAIN, and still not realize that tough guy blew the wad in November, and is now almost comical when he elevates and manufactures lines in the sand, where none need exist.
I was truely surprised when I head Kory's reaction to the proposed Liberal motion. I suspected another "we were going to do this anyway" kind of response.
It almost seems like they want to force an election, but they've picked a very strange hill to die on if that's the case. I see no reason for us to back away here so if the Cons don't want to back away, bring it on, and good luck explaining this one to Canadians.
After rereading the Member Statements/Oral Questions from the Official Report, I came across these 2 Member Statements thatprove that this government can't be trusted and needs to be held accountable:
Statements by Members – Mar 3rd - Infrastructure
"Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, people across northern Ontario have heard the government is prepared to move heaven and earth to get badly needed stimulus cash out the door and into the hands of communities so that they can pursue much needed improvements to their infrastructure. Elected officials in these same communities are now wondering what it is going to take to actually get their hands on that money.
The town of Espanola in my constituency is a prime example of what has gone wrong. Faced with a brown water problem, Espanola has done the necessary legwork to pursue a fix. It has gone through the application process and waited, shovel ready, for the federal government to pony up its share of the project funding through the building Canada fund.
Despite seeming to match all the criteria for a project to be able to draw funds from that program, Espanola has been denied funding again.
The outcome is difficult enough to accept. For a small community, the application process is daunting. Espanola spent $80,000 from its relatively small tax base to pursue assistance for this persistent problem. Not only was it denied funding, but it received no feedback to indicate--"
And here the next day, we are provided with this wonderful announcement:
Statements by Members – Mar 4th - Infrastructure
"Mr. Phil McColeman (Brant, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to draw the attention of the House to the recent announcement of the government of over $10 million to build a new twin-pad arena in my riding of Brant and to rebuild the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre.
We are creating jobs by doing this and making Canada stronger by investing in it. We are delivering results in these difficult times by building roads, bridges and water treatment systems across Ontario and by investing in projects like these.
Not only will people in Brant have greater access to physical activity opportunities as a result of this development, but the community will benefit from job creation, improved recreational facilities and the sport tourism dollars this will bring to our area for years to come."
If the Cons want to make accountability an election issue, I say, Bring it on!!
I honestly don't think Harper wants an election, merely trying to reassert himself. The Cons probably had some indication that Harper helped himself with Obama, so he was feeling a little more confident. This is really his natural state, and unless Harper is constantly under fire, or on the defensive, he'll start throwing around elbows.
Probably off the wall but this came to mind, & won't go away, as soon as I heard about wanting this $3 Billion in monies released without accountability:
Is there some huge financial scandal, hidden from view, that Harper is responsible for & wants to cover up before it becomes known? Something to think about but as I said most likely uinrealistic.
It is more than odd. It is an extremely dumb mistake, like the November update.
You can almost see the thinking: 'I need to re-establish myself as the chessmaster of this Parliament after being put on "probation" and I know the Liberals will back down eventually because they don't want an election; once they back down, I own them.'
But it is a big big misread of the Liberals and the Canadian population.
Worse for him, he throws away the very issue that got him elected in the first place: accountability. He can't bring up Adscam or anything else from last decade and gives the Liberals a fresh start.
Part of the absurdity of his position is that the Liberals are really not asking for much ahead of time. They are not looking for an accounting of each project ahead of time.
Read the motion. All they want right now - and it is not asking that much accountability at all - is for the government to tell us the aggregate dollar amount to be allocated to each department. Right now, all they want is "a comprehensive list of all the departments and programs which will have access to this extraordinary authority".
And this is what the Conservatives want to fight an election on? Most people are assuming they are opposing any accountability on this because they want to use the slush fund for strictly partisan purpuses. I'm a little more generous and my guess is that their concern is that that requirement will show they really don't have a clue where to spend the money or what to do about the economy, i.e. the slush fund is just for show just like 95% of the infrastructure announcements that have been made but not spent.
One more thing. I find watching the Blogging Tories these days very revealing.
Whenever the Liberals take on Harper and Conservative supporters think either that (a) the issue is weak but might make Harper vulnerable or (b) Harper is on and in the right on an important question, you will see no end of blog comments excorciating the Liberals and praising Harper. Most especially and most consistently so if it is a confidence/election matter.
But what is interesting and very telling here is the complete silence. Ever since the budget passed, the bulk of BT political commentary has been about Israel and Obama.
What that tells me is that they are finding it hard to defend Harper on the budget, generally, and this new slush fund in particular. He's in the wrong and he's losing his base over it.
I saw Jack Layton in a scrum on CPAC yesterday. Vic Toews has been stating in QP that the auditor general is aware and will be keeping an eye on the $3 billion BUT Layton's people contacted the auditor general's office and they weren't contacted by Harper's bunch, and they don't approved of what Harper's trying to do.
Why aren't the press or anyone else discussing this?
Do you have a link for this? What network/show?
The BULL is in full rage and full speed completely losing his mind .... yeah it is like what they did in November all over again.
No Harper doesn't really want an election but bluffing trying his old very tired tricks
getting ridiculous with his US media appearances... I am sure even "his people " are baffled by his complete turnabout on everything he ever stood for.
Love it. How bloody typical. This is working with Parliament????
"The PMO subsequently admitted that they did not read the Liberal motion before criticizing it." (http://www.liberal.ca/story_15648_e.aspx)
Is there some huge financial scandal, hidden from view, that Harper is responsible for & wants to cover up before it becomes known?
If there isn't yet, there soon will be. Government (taxpayers) money being spent as quickly as possible to solve a short-term problem? Where have we heard that before? Why is the LPC complicit in this?
I see 2 possible scenarios behind this latest 'bluto' act:
a) the internal polls and feedback from the party's own grassroots is that Ignatieff is gaining ground so quickly that Harper's best operative is to draw the Liberals into an early election. On the campaign trail, they'll try to smoke the new Liberal leader out into making a gaffe, hang on to the thinnest thread that they are 'sound economic managers (I guess Kreskin may have some work to do!) and use the coalition card.
2) and my personal feeling... this is purely theatrical act but one Harper has done in order to save his job and scare off his internal critics. He's enlisted the lamest of lame back benchers to continue tossing bean bag accusations at Ignatieff, hoping to distract the media, while fending off the growing muttering tribalists in his own ranks. As they noticed on At Issue, there seem to be more CON front-benchers showing off their french these days. No doubt Harper is also stalling for time, aiming to get some of that lush lucre out the door into choice ridings where he may pull out a Hail Mary during a late summer/fall election.
"No doubt Harper is also stalling for time, aiming to get some of that lush lucre out the door into choice ridings where he may pull out a Hail Mary during a late summer/fall election."
I agree. Sounds the most plausible reason to me, one that makes the best sense.
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