Monday, July 14, 2008

 

THE COMMON SENSE REVOLUTION - REDUX

Here we are not halfway through the summer break already many Parliamentarians, and most journalists and pundits, are again speculating over the seemingly endless debate about an early Federal election.

Virtually since the Harper Conservative minority government was elected in January 2006, the House of Commons and those who cover its activities have deliberated over when the Government would fall. Fortunately when later this week the country's thirteen provincial and territorial leaders get together in Quebec City they may offer a rare opportunity for a switch in focus, if only for a brief few days. Everything in Canadian politics bears a certain relationship; and taxpayer money is always involved. It is therefore tempting to speculate given that it's the government's hands which are clearly in our pocketbooks.

First then to the "Council of the Federation" in Quebec City Wednesday to Friday. It's the second time Premier Jean Charest hosts the Council, a group which he was instrumental in creating in 2006. At this week's event many of the Provincial and Territorial leaders will surely bask in and admire the glory and splendor of the generosity the Federal Government has lavished on the country's first city in this, the 400th anniversary of its birth. Others can wish only for the same generous consideration. It is all a matter of perspective. If and when there were to be a Federal Election, Mr. Harper's government would need an electoral breakthrough in the provinces east of Manitoba.

Just a short 4 weeks into Parliament's summer recess, the money taps are running wide open...at least for some: Nova Scotia has been granted an estimated windfall of $633-million of Federal tax dollars in settlement over a feud about resources which dates back to the 1984 abolition of the Trudeau Government's "National Energy Program". In addition to the several tens of million dollars spent on Quebec City's year long 400th birthday party; the Industry Minister, Jim Prentice, has been quick to trumpet that Canada's share of the Bombardier new passenger jet announcement includes a handout of $350-million more tax dollars. Lest it get tedious: In one month, there have been a total of 31 funding announcements in "La Belle Province". They total $1.1 Billion.

In Ontario the Federal largess is to the tune of about $370-million spread-out over 30 different projects. By comparison, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta share a near minuscule $62-million. Near minuscule of course other than for the fact that it's all our tax dollars. Actually to digress a tad more. Whilst Prime Minister Harper's Tory forces are strong in Alberta, that western province's enormous surplus may be more than a source of envy at the Quebec "Council of the Federation". As Desi Arnaz would often tell Lucy in the 1950's TV comedy -'I Love Lucy'- : Premier Ed Stelmach may have some "splainin' to do" to justify still receiving any Federal transfer payments when Alberta's surplus this year has been estimated at $12-Billion...larger than the Federal and all other provinces surpluses combined.

I am not prepared yet to speculate on a fall Federal election. Though the Harper Government strategy is clearly focused on crucial breakthroughs in Quebec and Ontario when and if one happens. The arrival this week in the Prime Minister's office of Guy Giorno as Chief of Staff, and Kory Teneycke as Director of Communications, sharpens that focus. Both men cut their teeth into politics as active participants in the "Common Sense Revolution" of the Mike Harris Progressive-Conservative government in Ontario back in the 1990's. In the Prime Minister's entourage they'll be joining Harris ex-pat Cabinet Ministers: Jim Flaherty, the Finance Minister; Tony Clement, Health; John Baird, Environment; and Peter Van Loan, Government House Leader.

In due course: Time, circumstances, and the scarce fortunes of the rancorous Stephane Dion Liberals will determine the life cycle of the current Parliamentary session which is set to resume on September 15. The question to ask then will be whether Canadians, particularly those east of the Manitoba border are prepared to engage in a neo-conservative 21st Century national "Common Sense Revolution".

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