Following several days of strategically-timed leaks to the press, the Stephen Harper Party has finally tabled its stimulus budget, which, according to the Canadian Press, “submerges Canada in a sea of red ink after more than a decade of clear fiscal sailing.” Indeed, it seems that Jim Flaherty has finally embraced his inner Keynesian, after years of hiding it beneath Milton Friedman’s long shadow:
The Tories are doling out nearly $20-billion – or half the stimulus package – to spur immediate spending on infrastructure projects and home construction.
Nearly $12-billion federal dollars will be made available for “shovel-ready” public works projects across Canada that can be commenced quickly, but there’s a catch. Provinces and municipalities will have to contribute nearly $9-billion more in order to get the roads, bridges and sewer upgrade work started.
Cost-shared projects the Tories are eying include: revitalizing Union Station in Toronto, the Evergreen transit line in Vancouver, road upgrades in Quebec City and the Summerside wind energy project on Prince Edward Island.
Infrastructure spending alone won’t keep all the building trades in Canada busy though and Ottawa has allocated $7.8-billion for other construction activity – to renovate and upgrade housing.
This includes $3-billion it expects to spend giving out tax breaks for the temporary home renovation credit as well as $1-billion in outlays to fund renovations and retrofits of social housing. Ottawa will also spend $400-million on new home construction for low-income seniors, $400-million on first nations reserve housing and $200-million for building northern residences.
Of course, all that spending (and tax cuts) comes at a cost (er…you know what I mean):
Ottawa is forecast to add $85-billion to the debt between now and 2012-13, eroding much of the debt-reduction achievements of the past decade. Current and former governments have shaved $105-billion from the national debt since the late 1990s by using surpluses to retire obligations owing.
Yet out of all the ‘pragmatic’ concessions made by the Harper conservatives that fly in the face of their purported ideological ‘principles’ (a practice the Harpercons have been perfecting recently) there’s still one policy area where old habits die harder than Bruce Willis, as the NDP (which, along with the Bloc, has already vowed to vote down the budget) points out in a press release (h/t The Regina Mom):
The budget…contains no mention of childcare spaces and maintains the attack on women’s ability to pursue pay equity complaints.
Via Antonia Zerbisias, YWCA Canada has also issued a press release with its response to the latest bird-flip to 51% of the population:
“The government has set up some very inclusive spending with this budget for First Nations, seniors and people with disabilities, but we don’t see an awareness that Canadian women are very vulnerable in hard times,” says YWCA Canada CEO Paulette Senior. “Two-thirds of Canadians working for minimum wage are women, many taking any work they can find to hold family and community together. Government stimulus spending must take this into account.”
“The hole in this budget is child care services. For Canadian women and their families, child care is missing, and it is vital,” says Senior. “Everything we know about building strong families says child care services are essential. And that goes double for women needing to leave violent situations. They need affordable, quality care for their children so they can go out and work. Childcare not only creates jobs but it supports women and their families. Now is the time.” The budget announced $200 million for social housing in the north, a much needed investment.
Unlike the November economic update there was no mention of pay equity in the budget. “We are very sorry to hear a resounding silence from the government on this issue,” says Paulette Senior. “Especially as job stimulus spending is concentrated in employment sectors heavily dominated by men. The government needs to rethink its position on this equality issue and take the advice of its own task force.”
Keep in mind that, according to CUPE National President Paul Moist, “[m]any of these measures have a shelf-life of only two years.” Anyone who believes that we have witnessed the birth of a new era of post-partisan Conservative governance needs to stop downing so many goddamn Hope and Change cocktails and reset their GPS (hint: we’re still flying north of the US border, kids–even under NAFTA obligations, Obama’s transformative reach unfortunately stops at the customs desk). Still, it’s all-too-telling that, even in the short term, demonstrative apathy (or, depending how you look at it, antipathy) towards the women of Canada is one principle that the Tories are entirely unwilling to sacrifice at the alter of (temporary) expediency.
And, if anyone really thinks that we’re going to see this budget get killed, as Mark Taylor recommends, or even substantively modified before passage, Brodie Fenlon of the Globe and Mail puts things into perspective with the following lede:
The fate of the Harper Conservative’s massive stimulus plan and its minority government now rests in the hands of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, as does the future of the fledgling Liberal-NDP coalition.”
In other words, progressives and coalition supporters shouldn’t even bother inhaling, much less holding it in. Still, if the spirit of futile optimism moves you to act despite the long odds (as, um, it always does to yours truly), contact info for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is as follows:
Room 435-S, Centre Block
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Tel: (613) 995 – 9364
Fax: (613) 992 – 5880
Alternatively, folks who are more new media saavy can send their thoughts via Iggy’s 1337 Web 2.0 hub.
Related: Various reponses from First Nation leader Phil Fontaine, James Laxer, and Marc Lee of the Progressive Economics Forum, who dismisses the “leakiest budget in Canadian history” as “more of a communications strategy than a serious budget for tough times.”
Stop fucking lying:
“Our objective is to get a majority of senators in the Senate who support reform. That is our objective. Once reform is passed, everyone will be standing for elections,” [a Conservative Party aide] told reporters at a background briefing yesterday.
“Our government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate,” Harper said in a statement that accompanied the list of appointees.
“If Senate vacancies are to be filled, however, they should be filled by the government that Canadians elected rather than by a coalition that no one voted for,” he said, referring to the Liberal-NDP coalition agreement that was signed before Harper sought prorogation of Parliament earlier this month to avoid a confidence vote.
Despite the overwhelming ignorance of a majority of Canadians, we do not ‘elect’ a government; we elect a Parliament by voting for local candidates who, if successful, become Members of Parliament, followed by the formation of a government–which may or may not represent the party that had a majority of its MPs elected to Parliament. If a group of MPs (say, a coalition of opposition MPs who represent a majority of seats in the House of Commons) can gain the confidence of the House, they have every right to form a government, regardless of election results. You know this, and yet you continually lie (yes, lie—Ed Broadbent sure called it earlier this month) in the process of stating your case as to why you should remain in power.
By now it should be more than apparent that you could give a flying monkey fuck about anything (including the welfare of the nation) apart from clinging to power and furthering your radical right-wing agenda by any means necessary. But what’s truly sad is the fact that, during the course of their report, Tonda MacCharles and Bruce Campion-Smith apparently felt that correcting a blatant falsehood was unnecessary. When the press colludes with the PMO to spread disinformation, even unwittingly, is there any wonder why the people of Canada are so ignorant of the democratic process?
Look, I know that Goebbels is said to have once famously (and perceptively) quipped that if you “repeat a lie a thousand times it becomes truth”; but one would hope that our nation’s elite would have higher standards with regards to whom they are channeling their PR strategy through.
With vexation and disgust,
“D’oh Canada” indeed:
A new survey for the Dominion Institute taken in the aftermath of this month’s political crisis in which the word “prorogue” was dusted off political science textbooks suggests a woeful ignorance when it comes to our system of government.
For example, results of the Ipsos Reid survey show 75 per cent of Canadians asked believe the prime minister, or the Governor General, is head of state. Bzzzz – wrong.
It’s actually the Queen.
Only 24 per cent managed to answer correctly, according to the poll provided exclusively to The Canadian Press.
Given a choice how best to describe the system of government, 25 per cent decided on a “co-operative assembly” while 17 per cent opted for a “representative republic.”
Canada is neither.
Only 59 per cent correctly picked constitutional monarchy.
In a similar vein, 51 per cent wrongly agreed that Canadians elect the prime minister directly.
In fact, Canadians elect local members of Parliament and the leader of the party with the most members by tradition becomes prime minister at the request of the governor general.
Please, keep these results in mind the next time y’all wanna rag on our neighbours down south for collective national ignorance.
(Current) Prime Minister Stephen Harper is quickly going nuclear, apparently about to play his one possible trump card–18 vacant seats in the Senate just waiting to be filled:
“It’s outrageous,” said New Democrat MP and reform critic David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre), whose party advocates abolishing the Senate. “I can’t believe that the Prime Minister is just literally giving Canadians the finger.”
Christopherson was angry over both Harper’s change of position and his timing.
“This is about a blatant power move by someone who does not have the legitimacy of the Canadian people in terms of the votes he got, nor does he have the confidence of the House,” Christopherson said.
“I can’t believe that the Prime Minister is just literally giving Canadians the finger.”
Why are we still surprised by the depths in which Stephen Harper will sink in order to further his partisan Conservative agenda? Ever since the election, he has comfortably settled into the role of a Nixon-like figure, veering wildly between equally potent expressions of partisan aggression and grievance, his deliberately divisive calculations polarizing the nation and Parliament along increasingly unstable regional and ideological faultlines with apparent disregard to the long term consequences.
This latest maneuver is precisely why Liberals–especially Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff–must remain firm in their commitment to taking down this government.
Behold–the birth of the New New Spirit of Cooperation (now with even less irony):
The Conservatives issued a fundraising letter on Wednesday painting interim Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff as a parachute leader who wasn’t rightfully elected by Canadians or his own party members.
“Stéphane Dion has resigned as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and by extension, of the Liberal/NDP/Bloc Coalition,” Tory campaign chair Doug Finley writes.
“In yet another stunning and unprecedented demonstration of Liberal contempt for our democratic rights, they’ve decided to appoint a new leader in place.”
The fundraising letter then implores party supporters to donate $200 or $100 to “help us spread this message to Canadians.”
The letter came just a day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an olive branch to Ignatieff, urging the “big national parties” to work together on protecting Canada’s economy from the global economic turmoil.
“I hope the next Liberal leader, the first thing he’ll do will be … to sit down with me and have that kind of discussion,” the prime minister said in an interview with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge on Tuesday.
Likely to be first on the (current) Prime Minister’s agenda: “So, uh, what colour is your parachute, Mr. Ignatieff?”
[CTV News Ottawa Bureau Chief Bob] Fife also said senior Liberals have told him that they may not need a coalition to form a new government.
“If they do defeat the Conservative government… Ignatieff will go to the Governor General and say ‘We think we can form the government but we don’t have to do it with a coalition,'” Fife said.
“In other words we don’t have to give the NDP any seats in a Liberal government.”
He said the NDP and Block (sic) would have to support the Liberals because they already have expressed their hatred towards the Conservative government.
Y’know, I get the impression that this mysterious gaggle of “senior Liberals” who go running to Fife every time a gnat cuts a fart during a caucus meeting have an ongoing bet on who can convince CTV’s 1337 stenographer to breathlessly relay the most outrageous load of horseshit, no matter how absurd. Yes, the NDP will dutifully prop up the Grits without having a say in shaping policy. And Stephen Harper truly has the best interests of the nation at heart.
Tell me another one, Bob.
Anyway, Iggy just reiterated his (tepid) support of the coalition, stating in his first news conference as Liberal interim leader that “the ball is in Mr. Harper’s court” and that the (un)coalition is fully prepared to form a “stable” government, should the Governor General make such a request. So even though pogge’s skepticism is likely warranted (based on both Liberal scuttlebutt and Iggy’s equivocation about whether he will actually invoke the coalition option), I’m not quite ready to write off the coalition as DOA just yet. What Iggy has made abundantly clear is this: over the next several weeks the overtures and maneuvers undertaken by Harper and his minions will determine the fate of this Parliament.
One wonders if the current Prime Minister, based on the hubris he’s displayed over the past several weeks, will be able to resist hanging himself with the rope he’s just been handed.
Stephen Harper, in an interview with Peter Mansbridge, unveils the next stage in the Conservative divide-and-conquer strategy to destroy the Coalition for Change (and cling to power):
Harper called on all the “big national parties” to work together going forward, suggesting that he too was looking forward to a better relationship with Dion’s replacement.
“I hope the next Liberal leader, the first thing he’ll do, will be willing to sit down with me and have that kind of discussion.”
By know you’re all likely aware that “the next Liberal leader” is Michael Ignatieff, who, as many have pointed out, is rumoured to be “lukewarm” at the notion of forming a coalition government with the NDP (despite previously indicating in writing his support for the coalition accord).
Mr. Ignatieff is better postioned [sic] to debate on serious economic matters, being no fan of interventionist Green Shift carbon tax schemes and more likely to share Harper’s forceful view on military matters and foreign affairs.
He’s expected to surround himself with the younger brasher MPs who rarely got the chance to shine under Mr. Dion and embrace fiscal policies that might not find favor with coalition-partner New Democrats or the Bloc Quebecois.
That’s undoubtedly why Ignatieff’s always been so cagey about the coalition, choosing his words with deliberate precision to ensure they will not come back to haunt him.
He has little intention of bringing the coalition back to life as a shared power grab except in an emergency, opting instead to position the Liberals as a single-party alternative government.
Mr. Ignatieff might even take Prime Minister Harper up on his offer, repeated in a CBC interview Tuesday, to contribute Liberal ideas for inclusion in the budget. OK, perhaps that’s the dreamer gene in me, but Mr. Harper did pledge to “look at different kinds of arrangements” with Mr. Ignatieff. Surely that’s an olive twig, if not a branch.
It should be clear by now that those of us who represent the 62% majority need to fight if we are to have any hope of making Parliament work. Via The Canadianist, here is a tool to contact your MP and register your support, courtesy of the CLC. Tell your MP that you support the coalition.
It is especially imperative that Liberal coalition supporters make their voices heard. Don’t kid yourselves: you can’t trust a man who is, as Impolitical puts it, “totally oblivious to and shameless about the turmoil he’s caused” to work with the Opposition (even a “big national party” like the official Opposition) in good faith, “olive twig” or not. As Murray Dobbin presciently observed prior to the hurling of Flaherty’s now-infamous ‘economic statement’ stuffed in a partisan Molotov cocktail, “Stephen Harper’s ultimate objective is not just a majority government. It is to destroy the Liberal Party as a contender for power [emph. mine].”
One hopes Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party will keep that paramount consideration in mind before seriously contemplating any deals with a silver-tongued devil.
Michael Ignatieff has secured the federal Liberal leadership without a fight after his last remaining rival, longtime friend Bob Rae, bowed out.
Rae informed his supporters of his decision during a conference call this morning and is to make it official at a news conference later today. His decision came just hours after the Liberal national executive rejected his plea to find an expedited way of giving all party members a vote for Stephane Dion’s replacement.
Rae gave his supporters an advance peek at his statement, in which he said he still believes an open process would have been “a vital and healthy process for the party.”
But he vows to accept the party’s choice “without rancour or undue disappointment.”
No, the rancor and disappointment will likely be left to those of us who (perhaps naively) hold faint hope that Iggy will actually do what’s right for Canada, instead of accepting whatever watered down “concessions” Harper offers come January 27th.
Former Dominic LeBlanc supporter John Laforet with the bottom line on what Iggy’s ascension would mean:
Should Ignatieff take the Leadership this Wednesday, the coalition is dead on arrival. He has made it clear through his waffling (my single largest issue past and present with supporting his candidacy) that he will not support working with the NDP to form a progressive government. The Liberal Party will be back to sitting on their hands, red faced and embarrassed or into an election we can’t win because we won’t have had the time to rebuild.
Here’s hoping the rank-and-file rebellion is successful, otherwise we’re looking at a defacto Conservative majority, propped up by Iggy and the Blue Lib Brigade.