Saturday, April 14, 2007

Equalization Clarity?

Just over a week after Wade Locke's presentation on the implications of the new equalization formula for NL, a new interpretation has produced drastically lower equalization benefits from the O'Brien version than was originally presented. In fact it is $5¼ billion lower than first thought. When the "Harper Promise/Letter" equalization version was no longer an option, then the O'Brien or 50% inclusion offer sounded like a pretty tidy consolation. But now that's been diminished to a $1 billion lower amount than the status quo equalization scheme NL is on.

Dr. Locke explains that only a couple of hours prior to his April 4 presentation, he was contacted by officials from Finance Canada who contradicted information they had earlier confirmed, in which Locke based his presentation on. It was too late for him to adjust all his figures and thus proceeded with his original interpretation. The timing of this crucial and changed information from officials in the Finance Dept. seems very odd, not to mention shocking. It adds to peoples' skepticism about what to believe from officials and politicians. It's also interesting that no official version has been publicly released from the provincial or federal finance departments, that is, a similiar breakdown as Locke's. Politicians like Hearn and NL Finance minister Tom Marshall, just seem to rely on Wade Locke to give their latest version of events.

Peoples' distrustful image of Stephen Harper will likely harden. Whenever the next federal election campaign begins it's going to be weird to visualize Harper campaigning here in the province (the token visits to St. John's). What will he have to offer? How can he first neutralize the anger he has ignited here over the latest equalization figures, let alone get people excited about any of his policies? Good luck with that Mr. Harper.

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