Thursday, September 9, 2010

 

TAKEN FOR GRANTED

Admittedly Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams is not a great friend of the Province of Quebec, nor of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Newfoundlanders have been smarting for 50 years over Hydro Quebec's hoodwink of Joey Smallwood over the Churchill Falls hydro project back in 1961.

In a most recent example on Wednesday; Premier Williams told the St. John's Board of Trade - "The rest of the country, and even Quebec itself, is finally admitting that it has been getting away with highway robbery in Canada for decades."

Canadians are generous. Just this week for example the British-based "Charities Aid Foundation" ranked us third in the world for generosity according to its survey of 153 countries for the willingness of their citizens to donate both time and money to worthy causes. Australia and New Zealand tied for first, Canada and Ireland tied next in line. The United States was next along with Switzerland.

But as Premier Williams' observation suggests; the problem in this country is the too frequent perception that our own money is spent not too wisely to buy the votes of any given segment of the population. It happens all the time at every level of the representatives we elect to municipalities, provincial legislatures and yes: The Federal Parliament...Sometimes it's just too blatant and flagrant to ignore.

Politicians from the lowest to the highest levels of government somehow manage to ignore that on the other side of the equation there is only ONE taxpayer: Us! - More galling and insulting, they use the money to advance their own "benevolence." Their ultimate goal being to stuff the ballot box with votes bought using the same dollars. - We fall for this? It works!

The Federal Liberals may have claimed the noblest of all vocations; "Saving the Country" for the excesses of the sponsorship scandal; but the tactics, methods and goals were the same anyhow. The politicians behind the current Economic Action Plan -Noble cause; "Saving the Economy" use the exact same ploy insisting that the billions of our stimulus dollars being doled-out are conditional on the project managers putting up the Government's (sponsorship) signage. "Secret" memos obtained by the Canadian Press note that the signage is so critical that funding contracts hold-back 20% until photographic proof of sign installation has been filed. Dear God!

Little wonder that faced with a weak and virtually ineffective opposition in Parliament it's the media which has been howling (summer long)to call attention to the Conservative Government's stumbles which; I noted in an earlier post, are too frequently "self-inflicted."

As the Parliamentary Chess challenge is about to resume there's growing anecdotal evidence that the government is looking for an obvious "elegant" way to sink at least another $200 Million (or so) of "our" dollars financing an NHL hockey arena in Quebec City. The trick being to avoid making us (rightly) conclude that it's a Quebec buy-off, Conservative style. It would be a sorry day if the case for the defence were to raise the specter of the Liberal sponsorships.

The Prime-Minister travels to Quebec City next week and Mayor Regis LaBeaume fully expects walking away from his meeting with Stephen Harper, grant-in-hand, at least equalling Premier Jean Charest's provincial commitment of $160-million. Spin doctors obviously at the ready to sell the rest of the country a "nose stretcher" about funding - "Really for a multi-purpose municipal amphi-theatre which (among other things) will bolster any future Quebec City Winter Olympic bid". Quebec City was a Canadian runner-up to the Vancouver bid a decade ago. Observers point out that one really disquieting matter about the plan is that the team owner of the proposed NHL franchise in Quebec City (and primary tenant of the arena) is billionaire Pierre Karl Peladeau. If the name sounds familiar: Mr. Peladeau owns Sun Media Television, the right-wing news channel with an application now before the CRTC.

And, if Winnipeg and Manitobans cry "fowl" over their own NHL Franchise "in the wings" for lack of a decent arena, they should be reminded that there are just 14 Parliamentary seats in Manitoba and Quebec has 75. That tactic worked for Brian Mulroney in '86 when the Military CF-18 maintenance contract was yanked-out of Winnipeg in favour of Montreal. We buy this? It works! Or simply: - They'll be flipped-off Trudeau style and told: "Mangez de la merde!"

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