Saturday, July 26, 2008


For sure the Monday, September 8, Federal by-elections in downtown Montreal, the south shore St. Lambert riding and Guelph, Ontario will be hard fought battles. Depending on their outcome, they may pretty much set the stage for the next national election. This week, the Federal Department of Finance gave them a whole new dimension.

Montreal Westmount and Guelph are Liberal ridings. Mr. Dion's troops can't afford to lose either. St.Lambert is a Bloc Quebecois riding which could be up for grabs. The Liberals can't but be buoyed by yesterday's confirmation at the Department of Finance that the country ran a deficit in the first 2 months of the fiscal year.

I'd liken it to the green and red spirit of Christmas. Selling the "Green Shift", while the predictable bottom line turns "Red". Though they will no doubt continue, perhaps intensify, I fear it may take more than a few "attack ads" from the Tories to counter our nation's brush with deficit financing.

What's suddenly happened to "prudent fiscal management" embodied by the hard-edged Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, and promised in the Federal Election of 2006. If he were dead, Paul Martin would be shifting in his grave. He's not dead, but Jean Chretien's former Finance Minister, he who wrestled the country's massive deficits and debts of the late 20th century, must surely cringe.

Canada's budget surpluses...paying down the debt, have been touted far and wide, in fact worldwide, by politicians of all stripes. We've scoffed at others including the members of the G-8 who weren't doing so well. Is it all gone? And in a matter of two-and-half years no less!

It has been all so predictable starting first with the cuts to the GST, and new lower personal and corporate taxes. They were okay, as long as someone had held closed the flood gates of cash giveaways to ingratiate the Harper government to the eastern provinces and their voters. It seems to me that would have been Mr. Flaherty's job. In any other circumstances he'd be up to it, but this Federal Government is essentially a "one man event", and Mr. Flaherty isn't that man.

It's only two months; but we're in the red half-a-billion loonies. Same time last year the surplus was just short of $ 3-billion. Mr. Flaherty says he and the government will revisit the situation in a mid-year fiscal statement being prepared for October.

Meantime though the coast may be clear for the Liberal party's fortunes to shift, along with their "green plan", into more positive territory. For that to occur the ball is now in Mr. Dion's court. It is he who must make the best of those September 8th by-elections. Westmount and Guelph will either be the Liberal leader's "Waterloo" or the launch of an all new offensive against the Government. One which could very possibly lead to a Federal Election soon after the House of Commons resumes in the fall.

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