Thursday, March 22, 2007

21 Seats: Could Harper's PQ Investment Backfire?

Coincidentally, 21 is the margin of the Conservative victory over the Liberals in the 2006 election, and also, the number of Conservative ridings in Sasketchewan, and the Atlantic provinces.

Irritation is apparently growing among western and eastern provinces with the news that Jean Charest is already spending a huge chunk of his $2.2 billion budget windfall to lure voters by a $700 million tax cut.

(From today's National Post)

Keep in mind that this most desperate of premiers governs a province that debt-finances Canada's most unaffordable lifestyle. Yet Mr. Charest diverted the windfall given Quebec in this week's budget to a tax cut worth $750 per average Quebec family, buying votes using Ontario, Alberta and B.C. currency.

The galling spectacle of Mr. Charest stripping $700-million for tax reduction from his $2.2- billion haul just 24 hours after receiving word of the federal handout may well bring back Quebec-bashing as a Canadian heritage sport.

Stephen I'll say or do anything to get elected Harper enticed 12/14 Sasketchewan ridings to vote Conservative based on the promise made to Premier Lorne Calvert to exclude all non-renewable resources from the new equalization formula. He clearly misled Newfoundland and Labrador, and Sasketchewan to get elected. On Monday, he just invested in Quebec in order to form a majority government in the next election. But with Quebec on side, and Ontario for the most part liking this budget, which is what really counts, Harper's chances of shaking minority government status would be much greater. However, if Charest does not win the Quebec election, then there might again be a frenzied atmosphere of a separatist government promoting the Bloc, which will make it tougher for the Conservatives in the next federal election.

Also, Harper's image as a promise-breaker is getting a steady mention in political editorials in Canada.

From his article, "Dishonest Budget", Andrew Coyne had this to say:

The budget claims to have solved “the fiscal imbalance” -- a debatable claim about a debatable problem... Yet the Tories campaigned on a promise to exclude these revenues from the equalization formula, in their entirety.

A broken promise, right? Not according to the budget. Thanks to various add-ons and one-time payments, it claims, no province will be worse off under the 50% inclusion rate than it would be if resources were kept out entirely. This, it says, will “fulfill the Government’s commitment to fully exclude non-renewable natural resources revenues from the calculation of Equalization.” But it didn’t fully exclude them. It half-included them. It might have compensated provinces for breaking its promise, but it still broke the promise.

(from the Prince Albert Daily Herald) Deal, but no Deal

We don't think that promise was kept, and either should the electorate who sent Tories to Ottawa from 12 of our 14 seats. Those votes were cast, in part, on the basis of that commitment, and Monday's federal budget made it clear the assurance was not kept.

The tone of CBC and CTV journalists, especially just after the budget announcement, was, as it often is, snobbish, towards Newfoundland and Labrador. However, to this blogger, it seems to be changing, to one which is more serious about the weaknesses in the budget. This is due in large part to the fact that SK, NS have similiar concerns as NL, and NB and BC have reasons for disliking the budget as well.

It's not like Harper said just once that non-renewables were to be excluded from the new formula, he said it on many occasions, on video and in writing, to NL and SK. He condemned Paul Martin for trying to impose a cap on equalization. However, there was a gradual erosion of his commitment of his promise noted in Jan., 2006 by Premier Calvert, and throughout the rest of last year, so it was no surprise that he offered the 50% inclusion option.

Technically, NL still gets the benefit of the Atlantic Accord till 2012, and possibly another eight years, and in that time frame, a promise kept. But Harper is not deferring his promise/suggestion to exclude 100% of non-renewables, he is changing it on paper.

Danny Williams should, and as he said, will, focus on other economic and provincial issues. As we know there's enormous economic potential for the province, and equalization is no more a crutch for our province than it is for other "have-not" provinces. (see previous post on federal transfers)

Here's more Quebec food for thought

(National Post)

Quebec runs a nation-leading debt of $122-billion, which drains a staggering $7-billion in interest payments from general revenue every year.

The government provides a distinct society of $7 daily daycare, tuition fees a third of the Canadian average, child care allowances that can hit $2,091 a year for the first kid and top-ups for registered education savings plans all wrapped in thick layers of heavily unionized job protection.

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