Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Carp Hits the Fan

I won't pretend to understand how equalization works. I won't pretend to understand if the "opt back" to the Atlantic Accord is the same or different than the original Atlantic Accord. I won't pontificate on the pros and cons of side deals with the provinces. I won't speculate on the legitimacy of the Senate holding up a budget, or of provinces suing the federal government.

But I will say that the optics of the atlantic disord we're seeing right now are very very bad. One MP down. Another wavering. Peter MacKay butting heads with his boss. A non-blowhard Premier from Atlantic Canada going to war with Harper. Plunging poll numbers out east.

Remember how Atlantic Canada punished Chretien and the Liberals in 1997 over cuts to EI? I'm betting a few Tory MPs out east are feeling a little nervous right about now.

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30 Comments:

  • What gives with these new conservatives? They don’t respect anything!

    In BC, the right-wing Liberal Party won the 2001 provincial election in a landslide. Then, the premier breaks his election promise by privatizing support services in BC hospitals.

    Bill 29 allowed the government to break contracts with the union and fire thousands. From the thetyee.ca article June 8,

    “The Campbell government used Bill 29 to tear up a contract with the B.C. Hospital Employees Union. The law opened the door to privatization, contracting out, layoffs by the thousands and plummeting wages in hospitals and long term care facilities across the province.”

    “This morning, the Court struck down sections of the legislation because they deny the freedom of association guarantee of the Charter of Rights' section 2(d). The sections violate citizens' rights "either by disregarding past processes of collective bargaining, by pre-emptively undermining future processes of collective bargaining, or both," the Court ruled.”

    And, you thought the Alberta conservatives are bad?

    It isn’t a surprise that the new conservatives are against the Charter of Rights and ‘judicial interference’. Beware! These very same things are our safeguards against tyranny.

    Can we have the Red Tories back again?

    By Blogger JimTan, at 1:15 AM  

  • Now I feel a little bit smarter for not immediately ruling out Elizabeth May's chances in Central Nova. But I sure can't claim to know that equalization would have been the reason.

    By Blogger Dan McKenzie, at 2:01 AM  

  • Re: "plunging poll numbers", according to the poll in that article, the Conservatives have gone way down in Newfoundland, but somewhat surprisingly they haven't noticeably budged anywhere else in the region.

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 2:01 AM  

  • Well the situation hasn't exactly gotten better since those numbers were collected.

    By Blogger Dan McKenzie, at 2:02 AM  

  • I dunno, but as an Albertan, I have a problem with the "have not" provinces that have suddenly become "haves" that b*tch & moan when we ALSO took a hit for the team. Not to say AB should start whining with them, but seriously, folks, I've got an issue with a province that thinks it's okay that provincial welfare puts them over the top on Ontario or Alberta when it comes to per capita cash. (OK, it might take a year or two to top AB on cash, but still.)

    By Blogger Candace, at 2:48 AM  

  • Yeah, I agree. Who cares about facts as long as somebody is whining. If somebody's complaining, they must have a valid point, according to Belinda Stronach. And you know that she knows from whining.

    Or we could actually look at the facts and see that some people are just being children, and the Kidberals are playing along.

    Nah, that might take work.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 3:20 AM  

  • Boo-hoo, I think car parts should be excluded from equalization payments, so that Ontario will be a net beneficiary. wa-wa-wa.

    Jimtan, please lay off the I-hate-Harper cola for a second. Your example is fairly stupid, because virtually every premier, and the Liberal PM, all of whom claimed to love public healthcare have long turned a blind eye, or aided and abetted privatization.

    Secondly, your comparison between this and the Atlantic Accords makes no sense, because the accords were signed by a desperate and sweaty Paul Martin, not Stephen Harper. The accords were not legally binding, and they were ridiculous from a fiscal sense (they would have meant that provinces with above average wealth could get equalization payments).

    Politicians lie and break promises, and you know what, I am often GLAD when they do. Dalton McGuinty said he wouldn't raise taxes - but he did (through a health premium) as soon as he took office. Ontario is better for it - since we eliminated the deficit. Chretien didn't get rid of the GST - and again we are much better for that too.

    If you think politicians should keep all of their promises, even when circumstances change, then you sir, are a very principalled but foolish man.

    The trouble for Dannyboy is that the Conservatives will lose 4 seats in Atlantic Canada at the most - there is plenty of room elsewhere.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 4:21 AM  

  • hosertohoosier, you're correct that there's only a small number of seats to lose in Atlantic Canada. That seems to be the calculation that the Cons made -- that pissing off the Atlantic provinces wouldn't affect, and if anything could enhance, their chances elsewhere. Who in Ontario is going to get up in arms about something connected to equalization?

    However, coming as it does after months of other lies and obfuscations, this obvious bait and switch is turning out to play badly everywhere (except Alberta, whose residents have forgotten about its own sweet deal) . That the Atlantic Accord is a ridiculous deal many would agree -- but it's objectionable by any standards that Harper would actively campaign on not touching it and then change it unilaterally through the budget. The Ontario Liberals can at least claim they didn't know the size of the deficit when they came into office and were unexpectedly forced to raise some money through an unplanned "premium" (whether you believe them or not is another matter). Harper knew what was in the Atlantic Accord and still claims to be upholding it now -- while putting forward two options to NF and NS that are entirely different than what was promised during the campaign.

    By Blogger Molly, at 8:15 AM  

  • Stephen Harper is not a Leader, he is a Mis-Leader.

    He is also not a statesman so he won't act the the best interests of each region of the country.

    Everything he does is calculated for purely partisan and political reasons.

    If he wanted to do so, he could offer the Atlantic provinces a better deal.

    The $1.6 Billion extra to Quebec made no sense but Harper did it for all the usual reasons.

    The losses in the East may be just 3 or 4 seats and Harper probably wants to get rid of Peter MacKay anyway.

    The Conservatives will clearly gain in Quebec. He's bought their votes with our money.

    How Ontario voters react will be interesting to watch.

    Are they prepared to trust Stephen Harper.

    The evidence is piling up. He truly can't be trusted.

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 8:38 AM  

  • This will work strongly in Harper's favor in Ontario.

    He will play the "why should they be richer with your money than you are" card and it will resonate with Ontario voters.

    There is great fatigue over shoveling money off the back of the truck to ungrateful maritime have not Premiers who love to whine but won't make the structural changes necessary to turn their provinces around.


    lose five seats in the Maritimes is a small price to pay for winning 20 in Ontario.

    By Blogger Fred :), at 8:54 AM  

  • There's no doubt that CPC poll numbers are going down in NFLD and NS over this. But let's see how it plays out in the rest of the country. And the next "Leadership" numbers will tell a story too.

    I'm reminded of the time Chretien throttled that protester with his "Shawinigan handshake". The early consensus was that his popularity would go down. But in fact, Chretien's popularity went up.

    One never knows about these things.

    By Blogger Calgary Junkie, at 9:48 AM  

  • The whole issue probably won't have a big impact in the rest of Canada, but the Conservatives are totally thrown off message here and I doubt their bumbling, deserved or not, will impress, anyone in Ontario or Quebec, or anywhere else?

    Oh, and where is Ed Stelmach in all of this?

    By Blogger Dan McKenzie, at 10:03 AM  

  • Fred, you're right that there are probably many Ontarians who'd respond favourably to the idea of Harper turning off the money tap to the Atlantic provinces.

    But the problem is any credibility Harper might have earned there is dissolved instantly with one word: Quebec. No Ontarian who thinks that whiny ungrateful "regions" are living on his dime could easily stomach that whole budget/Quebec tax cut business.

    By Blogger saphorr, at 10:06 AM  

  • "Fred, you're right that there are probably many Ontarians who'd respond favourably.."

    Except that most of those voters already vote conservative. This issue is a loser for Harper. He has so little experience in compromise, in negotiation; he needs to learn to shut up.

    By Blogger richard, at 10:33 AM  

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    By Blogger matt, at 10:37 AM  

  • Four thoughts:

    -Harper is constitutionally obligated to make equalization work. While that last phrase is monstrously imprecise, that means, at the least, there has to be consistent treatment of natural resources between provinces in respect of the equalization formula. So if Alberta's oil wealth is kept out of equalization, the Atlantic Accord can go merrily along per 2005. But if that situation re. natural resources and equalization is to be corrected, per the demands of provinces like Quebec and Ontario and...Ontario and...Ontario then Atlantic Canada can't just "opt out" of the Constitution. Now, as to how pots of money to Quebec figures in, I have no idea.

    -Where the heck is McGuinty in all this? Harper is taking this shit a) to do the right thing, b) in a way that reduces the equalization load on Ontario in a big way by taking more from Alberta to redistribute and lowering the needs of Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

    -To broaden a point Paul Wells made a while ago, why on earth would any Prime Minister after this do anything substantive for Atlantic premiers ever again? The Liberals would be precisely in the same mess if they were in power because they too would be compelled to resolve the equalization treatment of natural resources.

    -While I realize the Tories would likely be using this ammo in the same way, why is Dion running to embrace the Atlantic premiers on this? There's no upside once he's in power - he'll be tied to an ugly, vaguely unconstitutional set of sticky sweetheart deals. Like waking up with a walrus in bed.

    By Blogger matt, at 10:38 AM  

  • The point of this deal was that the oil and natural gas should belong to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and not to the federal government.

    Which begs the question as to why should they continue to get equalization payments now that they are getting gas revenue? Because they would have no incentive to bring it out of the ground if the feds are simply going to gobble it all up. The provinces can just let it sit there and their financial situation won’t be greatly affected.

    The $900 million dollar deal that the feds gave Nova Scotia has already been used to pay down the debt. The money no longer exists. So Harper turns around and says, well, take this new deal, or give us the $900 million back. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have been completely screwed by Harper.

    By Blogger Leo, at 10:59 AM  

  • Calgary Jerkie makes an interesting point, how Chretien's popularity didn't suffer, in fact, it grew after he gave that one noisy protester the Shawinigan handshake... However, imagine if he had a habit of twisting people's heads whenever he got antsy. Maybe the popularity may have taken a hit, don't you think?
    Kelowna, Kyoto, Income Trust, Atlantic, environmental green plans, the broken promises and bumbled attempts at policy are piling up.
    That guy is right. You can't trust Harpor, from coast to coast.

    By Blogger burlivespipe, at 11:48 AM  

  • I have to think this whole issue is politically stupid.

    Nova Scotia is complaing about losing $ 1 Billion over the next 10 years.

    Harper just gave Quebec an extra $ 1.6 Billion in one year.

    Does anyone else see the irony in that?

    What will Harper do for Quebec next year?

    And for how long will the rest of the country tolerate this form of political manipulation and fiscal mismanagement?

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 11:48 AM  

  • leo - that's an interesting perspective. I can't claim to be any kind of an expert on equalization payments but my understanding is that they are intended to help out poorer provinces. I don't think it's reasonable to accuse the feds of screwing Nova Scotia and Newfoundland just because they want to send them less of other people's money now that they have more than their own.

    matt - I agree that the Liberals response to this is enormously depressing. Maybe they shouldn't be congratulating Harper over this but equally it seems moronically short-sighted to be actively supporting Atlantic Canada.

    By Blogger John, at 11:54 AM  

  • First off as someone in Ontario, I can tell you that Harper isn't winning any points on equalization.

    Secondly, if my memory serves me right (and it may not) the Atlantic Accord gives Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador the same deal that Alberta got when it was developing its oil industry.

    By Blogger Ames Way, at 12:11 PM  

  • This whole Equalization / Atlantic Accord thing is so confusing. Besides the lawyers in the crowd, the average Canadian doesn't have a clue what is going on.

    If the Atlantic provinces have the choice of picking between the old accord and this new formula, then what's the problem? Just choose the old accord and shut up about it.

    Isn't that what it boils down to? I don't get it. It looks like the Provinces want to negotiate a better deal than they already have. On the other hand, look at Quebec and what they will receive in Equalization payments. It doesn't pay for them to run a more efficient province, when other provinces will bail them out, just so the feds (Liberals or Conservatives) will send cash their way to try to win over voters. This whole exercise is insane and pathetic.

    I realize that the desperate Paul Martin Liberals negotiated the Atlantic accord, but the Conservatives supported it. Are the Conservatives going to have to negotiate a "Saskatchewan Accord" now, to appease their voters, too?

    Interesting times for us political junkies, I just wish I could wrap my head around this issue.

    By Blogger Mercury Rising, at 12:26 PM  

  • I like this new Premier in Nova Scotia. He seems quite smart.

    He explains the problem this way:

    "Suppose you are an employee in a company and you achieve a bonus from your boss. You take that bonus and put all of it against your mortgage.

    Two years later the company is doing better so the boss gives everyone a raise. But he gives you a choice between your old salary with the bonus you got two years ago or the raise.

    But the catch is that if you take the raise you have to pay back the bonus you got. Is that fair?"

    I have the full text of the speech that he gave in Toronto yesterday.

    He speaks of the success and the investments that Nova Scotia has been realizing, listing half a dozen international companies that have recently invested there.

    The province is beginning to turn the economic corner and they don't need to be penalized at this early stage.

    That is a refreshing approach compared to that of Quebec, A province with no incentive to improve.

    Quebec has the highest per capita debt of any jurisdiction in North America despite having abundant supplies of resources and cheap hydro-power.

    They duplicate programs and services offered by the federal government and there is no solution in sight.

    They will always be the recipients of sizable equalization payments.

    Rewarding them for this is bad leadership.

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 1:17 PM  

  • " Leo said...

    Which begs the question as to why should they continue to get equalization payments now that they are getting gas revenue? Because they would have no incentive to bring it out of the ground if the feds are simply going to gobble it all up. The provinces can just let it sit there and their financial situation won’t be greatly affected. "

    Because then they could have the opportunity to be self financed rather than expect the ROC to fund their desired levels of public services. It would be an opportunity to prove to the ROC they they do not have a defeatist attitude.

    A blinding flash of the obvious.

    By Blogger Fred :), at 1:29 PM  

  • New Decima poll

    Lib 32
    Con 29

    No shawinigan handshake bounce for Harper here. Yet that court threat may still strike a chord...

    By Blogger Dan McKenzie, at 1:57 PM  

  • decima...yawn

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 3:55 PM  

  • The Atlantic provinces aren't about to send their own rigs out to sea to drill. That's private industry. So I really don't understand the "incent" point.

    And this is nothing like what happened with Alberta. In 1930 the four Western provinces received constitutional jurisdiction over their natural resources (as the original provinces always had). The Supreme Court Hibernia decision makes clear that Newfoundland and Nova Scotia never had constitutional jurisdiction over offshore resources. The Atlantic Accords are political, intergovernmental agreements which operate notwithstanding that jurisdictional fact.

    As to the raise / bonus analogy, it's not that simple. Not everyone gets a raise. And those that do didn't get bonuses.

    The analogy I come to is having cake and then wanting to eat it too.

    By Blogger matt, at 4:25 PM  

  • Hosier said

    “Your example is fairly stupid, because virtually every premier, and the Liberal PM, all of whom claimed to love public healthcare have long turned a blind eye, or aided and abetted privatization.

    You don’t understand the gravity of the situation. There is so much hate because of the deceit and brutality of Gordon Campbell. This fellow was not just privatizing. He was crushing the unions, and the little people got hurt.

    “The accords were not legally binding, and they were ridiculous from a fiscal sense (they would have meant that provinces with above average wealth could get equalization payments).”

    Danny Williams says that he had a signed letter from harper. What is a man’s word worth? What is your word worth? Nothing!

    “Politicians lie and break promises, and you know what, I am often GLAD when they do. .. Chretien didn't get rid of the GST - and again we are much better for that too.”

    Do you know how pathetic you sound? You’re glad that politicians lie to you? You have no right to complain about the corruption of chretien’s government.

    That fellow chretien started off by breaking his GST promise. Look at how his regime ended up. Harper broke his promises (plural). What does that say about harper and the future?

    These are words of wisdom from a good book.

    Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Matthew 7.15
    Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. Matthew 7.17

    By Blogger JimTan, at 5:57 PM  

  • "If the Atlantic provinces have the choice of picking between the old accord and this new formula, then what's the problem? Just choose the old accord and shut up about it."

    Whenever there are two options, the provinces see three choices: (A), (B), or (both A and B). And because the latter is better for them than either individually, they're claiming that the promise of (A) has been broken.

    The fact is that they can continue to choose (A). The problem for them is that they may give up the advantages of (B) by doing so.

    I wonder whether CG will comment on the latest poll showing asking Canadians whether they would want to see M. Dion as PM. (Was it 12% for, and 52% against?). On "Mike Duffy Live", M. Dion had complained about "spin", and then immediately began to spin this poll.

    Dion then went on to promise that he would never compromise, or change direction as new facts came to light (according to him, that would be breaking a promise, something he "would never do"). And that he has never broken a promise in his political life.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 9:05 PM  

  • These provinces will always feel disadvantaged.

    Justify the $1.6 Billion extra for Quebec and the smaller provinces might stop complaining.

    With that irrational inequity still in place, don't expect them to settle rationally for option A or option B.

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 12:31 AM  

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