Tuesday, November 18, 2008

 

WATCHING FOR THE SIGNS

The Governor-General will walk-up the steps of Parliament on Wednesday afternoon to deliver the "Speech From The Throne" setting into motion the agenda for Canada's third minority government in a row.

A briefer for the Prime Minister's office on Monday described the Speech as a..."tone setting document that will clearly establish the economy as the singular immediate focus of the government". In fact by now, it is generally believed that Mr. Harper's Conservative Government is developing plans and putting into place measures to float Canada's first national budget deficit since 1997.

It is unlikely that when the Governor General speaks the government's plan will be yet that clearly defined. That will be left to the Finance Minister's annual fall "State of the Economy" update expected in a couple of weeks, and later the late winter early spring 2009/10 Federal budget. Though as things go in Ottawa, bureaucrats are already well into piecing together the framework of next year's spending plans.

Still many will be looking for signs in the "Speech From The Throne" as to how Canada will fare heading into what may be another, as currently expected, disastrous and difficult economic period next year. Among those keen observers will surely be the Premiers of the country's most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec.

In Quebec, the Liberal Premier, Jean Charest, is knee-deep into an apparent winning strategy that may carry his minority government into majority territory in the province's December 8 general election. In anticipation of worsening economic conditions, Charest called Quebecers to the polls early into his second governing mandate. He and his poll-leading Liberals will surely be hoping for clear signals from the Feds' that Mr. Harper's agenda isn't likely to upset Quebec's apple-cart. The Federal Conservatives failed in their anticipated breakthrough in Quebec during the October Federal election despite spending billions there in the past year over, among other things, Quebec City's 400Th anniversary celebrations.

Any signals emanating from Ottawa about government largess, indeed if there is still enough money left in the coffers, is likely to be heading this time into Canada's newest "have-not" province: Ontario. Though the tone of debate has mellowed somewhat in the past few weeks, the Federal Conservatives have made no-bones about blaming the policies of the Liberal Government of Premier Dalton McGuinty for some of Ontario's economic woes. Indeed, instead of Quebec, it was in Ontario that the Federal Conservatives made significant gains in the October national election. Now if Ontario's automobile manufacturing based economy is to be saved, the Federal Government will have to move...and "subito presto!"

Our measures to rescue the "big three" automakers' Canadian operations best be in- place before America's Congress approves their rumoured $50 billion bailout of the Detroit automakers. You can bet the farm that if the Government of the United-States bails-out General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, it will not be so that those car makers use the money to protect manufacturing jobs in Canada. Premier McGuinty will surely be looking for comforting words in the "Speech From The Throne"...while Premier Charest hopes that Ottawa's money taps flowing into Quebec don't dry-up altogether.

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