Monday, June 11, 2007

Message from Harper

Go ahead... Make my day!

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O.K. Folks. My counter tells me there are 39 people reading this post right now. It's not a long post. What do you think? Is Harper on the right track here? You don't have to have anything earth-shatteringly pithy to say. Just leave a comment please.

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And here's the latest political gossip hot off the National Newswatch presses! Will Keddy pick his boss or his partner? Or are they one and the same?

This is interesting. Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald tries to explain his position:

"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?"

Do you buy that argument?

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Update: More at Daimnation! Great comments follow.


Kingston said...

I think so Joanne, I hope they do, is tired of hearing about it and I am a Maritimer. I still say the PMO needs a new communications director because they are all over the place.

Anonymous said...

yes. Harper's on the right track. Nothing like having your cake and eating it too.

I wonder why Dalton's being so quiet on this issue? Could it be that it smacks Ontario the wrong way?


Leny Vilekoskytch said...

This is from the headnote of Ref Re Canada Assistance Plan [1991] 2 S.C.R. 525. I think it demonstrates the futility of any of the provinces pursuing legal action.

"In 1990, the federal government, in order to reduce the federal budget deficit, decided to cut expenditures and limit the growth of payments made to financially stronger provinces under the Canada Assistance Plan (the "Plan"). This change was embodied in Bill C‑69, now the Government Expenditures Restraint Act. Under the Plan, the federal government concluded agreements with the provinces to share the cost of their expenditures on social assistance and welfare. Section 5 of the Plan authorizes contributions amounting to half of the provinces' eligible expenditures. These agreements continue to be in force so long as the relevant provincial law remains in operation (s. 8(1)). They may be amended or terminated by mutual consent, or terminated on one year's notice from either party (s. 8(2)). The Plan also provides for regulations, but regulations affecting the substance of agreements are ineffective unless passed with the consent of any province affected (s. 9(2)).

The Lieutenant Governor in Council of British Columbia, in accordance with s. 1 of the Constitutional Question Act of that province, referred to the British Columbia Court of Appeal two constitutional questions to determine: (1) whether the Government of Canada has any authority to limit its obligation under the Plan and its Agreement with British Columbia; and (2) whether the terms of the Agreement, the subsequent conduct of the Government of Canada pursuant to the Agreement and the provisions of the Plan give rise to a legitimate expectation that the Government of Canada would introduce no bill into Parliament to limit its obligation under the Agreement or the Plan without the consent of British Columbia. The Court of Appeal answered the first question in the negative and the second question in the affirmative.

Held: The appeal should be allowed. The first constitutional question is answered in the affirmative. The second constitutional question is answered in the negative.

nomdeblog said...

earth-shattering pithy

There, I said it .. :>)

Bob in Ottawa said...

I think so, too, Joanne. And I agree with Kingston . . . the Tories really need to do a major rethink of their communications function over the summer. They're just not messaging effectively, even when their position is clear and easily defended.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Nomdeblog - lol!

Kingston, thanks for that. A comment from a Maritimer is especially interesting. I agree about a new communications director needed. Of course, Harper hasn't exactly gone out of his way to woo MSM.

Anon - Nothing like having your cake and eating it too.

I assume you're referring to the whiny MP's and Premiers.

Leny - Good grief! All that legal mumbo-jumbo is enough to intimidate anyone.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Bob, yeah. I don't know what the problem is, but lately it has been worse than usual with a lot of contradictions, etc.

They really do need to work on that over the summer.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Well, it seems to me the provinces might not have seriously thought of suing the federal government to force them to honour the original signed agreement if it hadn't been for Harper's threat. I'd imagine the provincial lawyers are salivating today.

It'll be interesting now to see who gets to the courthouse first; the provinces, to sue the feds for changing the agreement; or the feds to stop the provinces from pointing out that they changed the agreement.

Having changed the agreement, I don't see how the feds can win a suit designed, as far as I can tell, to get the provinces to stop saying that they changed the agreement. The feds best argument is "yeah we changed the agreement, but only in a way that IMPROVES the options available to the provinces" and in PR terms that's not a bad argument at all. Now, it's pretty hard to convince me that the changes made to the Accord are good for the provinces in question (and that the provinces in question should have no reason to object to the changes) when the Premiers of the provinces in question are constantly telling me the opposite. But how does suing the provinces help?

The feds argument is 1) We didn't unilaterally change the Accord after agreeing in writing to uphold it. 2) To the extent that we DID unilaterally change the Accord after agreeing in writing to uphold it, we changed it in a way that the provinces couldn't possibly object to. 3) Since the provinces object to our unilateral re-working of the Accord (and since it's clear to us that they shouldn't object to the re-worked accord because either we never re-worked the Accord, or we re-worked it in a way they can't possibly object to) the Courts should force the provinces to stop publically objecting.

So, "We didn't do it, but if we did do it they have no reason to complain about it, and if they do complain about it they should be legally forced to stop complaining".

I expect by summer's end to see Harper smacking one of the Premiers on the side of the head with his own hand and saying "Stop hitting yourself... why are you hitting yourself????"

Anonymous said...

What the Atlantic premiers are doing amounts to a giant slap in the face to us knuckle-dragging rednecks out here in Alberta. Maybe we should take our resources off the table too, but oh....wait....that wouldn't be fair to the rest of the country. The hypocrisy is burning my eyes.

paulsstuff said...

Lord Kitchener, you seem somewhat ignorant of the budget. The provinces have two options.

1. Keep with the existing accord unchanged until it expires in 2019.

2. Accept the equalization formula put forth in the 2007 budget.

Harper challenged the premiers over the false statement he has broken a contract, the Accord. This is false. All provinces can live by the original Atlantic Accord in it's entirety. Problem is, they now want the Accord, plus more! If the provinces think Harper broke the contract, he is willing to let the courts rule.

Funny how the N.S. premier has already turned down the challenge, saying its the court of public opinion that will decide. This is doublespeak.Harper said put up or shut up, and the premier has decided to take his ball and sulk all the way home, knowing full well his bluff has been called.

Anonymous said...

As usual Mr. Harper has helped the Opposition embarrass themselves.

Put up or shut up, gotta love it!

Steve isn't so stupid to make that challenge without knowing the income.

Let some fool use the Court Challenges...oops...too late.

Keep up the great work Mr. Harper. You are surrounded by the Opposition and their cohorts the media. Good thing you are pissing downhill.

Dennis Richard said...

Dennis R: I am also from Nova Scotia and I agree 100% with what Mr. Harper is doing. I hope he doesn't give in to this type of blackmail.

Kingston said...

Lord, I think that is what the govt is having a hard time expressing, the original accord stands as signed. He said he would honor it and he did. Now if the second plan has a more generous per capital outlay but involves a cap then that is what NL and NS must decide.

I have no idea what Sask is b*tching about, Correct me if I am wrong but they did not even have an agreement on paper. Joanne, I do not know if you will post this link but I stumbled upon it earlier today concerning equalization, quite interesting, Lets see these figures on MSM if its true, kinda of take the winds right out of Mr. Williams sails I would say.

Tony said...

Face it. The Atlantic provinces will never be satisfied. They whined about the Liberal government and now they are whining about the Conservatives.

The sad thing is that the money that they are whining about comes largely from the tax payers in Ontario and Alberta. Maybe it is time to just stop equalization payments altogether and let each province stand on its own feet.

Calgary Junkie said...

Yes Joanne, Harper is on the right track. Speaking as someone who wants very much for Harper to make progress, I'm extremely disappointed with Casey's actions.

Given Casey's level of personal popularity, with a lot of political capital at his disposal, he could easily have sided with Harper. It's called working together as a team.

Just think of all the political capital Alberta MPs have spent, by staying silent while Harper accomodates Quebec. They understand the challenges for Harper in broadening the Conservative coalition. MPs like Diane Ablonczy have been solidly behind Harper, even though she's taken a lot of flack over the Income Trust issue.

So why couldn't Casey be just as supportive here ? Where is his team spirit ? Is it all about squeezing as much money as possible out of the rest of the country for these Atlantic MPs ?

Very disheartening to this Albertan of 50+ years.

hank said...

Revenue leak must be plugged before too late

The StarPhoenix

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A record Alberta budget of $33 billion that's increased 23 per cent since 2005-06 and has Finance Minister Lyle Oberg warning about possible future deficits with his province's oil and gas revenues declining, provides lots of food for thought in Saskatchewan.

Although Oberg is projecting a $2.2 billion surplus for 2007-08, he warned that a rapidly growing Alberta, whose resource revenues dropped five per cent last year even as its population grew by 100,000, cannot keep up the pace of spending hikes.

Among the factors driving up costs is the $18.2 billion the government will spend over the next three years on infrastructure -- in essence making up for the deferred investment from past years in such necessities as schools and roads required to handle an influx of people.

Under tremendous pressure to act, the government is embarking on these public projects in an era when a booming economy is creating a scarcity of labour and driving up costs, even as a lopsided royalty structure in the oilsands is eating into the budget surpluses that have made Alberta the envy of the rest of Canada for years.

In the context of Alberta's declining oil and gas resources, it's interesting to note the commentary of Queen's University economist Thomas Courchene, a senior scholar for the Institute for Research on Public Policy and a foremost expert on Canada's equalization program.

In a 2007 federal budget analysis for the IRPP, Courchene notes that Saskatchewan "again finds its energy revenues largely 'nationalized,' that is, effectively clawed back under the operations of the confiscatory fiscal cap and directed to the coffers of Ottawa and the other recipient provinces."

He calculates that, if oil prices were at $20 a barrel (with natural gas at a comparable price), Saskatchewan would be in line for about $900 million in equalization while collecting about the same amount in resource royalties -- putting it at close to the point where the Harper government's equalization cap kicks in.

If oil rises to $60 a barrel, Saskatchewan's resource revenues go up by about another $900 million, but under the cap the province loses all its equalization because it's deemed to have a fiscal capacity greater than Ontario's.

As a "have" province, it won't have any further royalties above that amount clawed back because it no longer receives equalization.

The point Courchene makes is that there exists a range of several hundreds of millions of dollars where Saskatchewan does not reap any benefit at all because of the confiscatory equalization cap.

"Why would the province continue to collect any royalties?" he asks. "Why not reduce them to zero and require energy companies to make compensatory contributions to hospitals and universities?"

Despite the simplistic claims by critics who compare equalization to a form of national welfare, Courchene rightfully notes that under the current regime -- one which he says Ottawa adopted in full knowledge of its impact on Saskatchewan -- this province actually has to "take money from hospitals and universities to repair the substantial road damage, arising, for example, from the operations of the energy companies."

He suggests the issue will end up in the courts, because there's a question of whether the feds can "justify ensuring that all other equalization-receiving provinces will, under the operations of the cap, receive more net revenues from Saskatchewan's energy sector than the province does itself."

Further muddying the waters, as it were, is the treatment of the hydro-electricity resources of Manitoba and Quebec. Both provinces are massive recipients of equalization dollars.

Although the Al O'Brien report that the Harper government used as the basis for breaking its promise -- despite the attempt by the prime minister and his 12 weasel-worded MPs in Saskatchewan to claim otherwise -- referred to the need to rework equalization provisions to properly account for hundreds of millions in hydro revenues, these "hydro rents" continue to be largely ignored.

Courchene suggests if this remains the case, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and perhaps B.C., might consider setting up Crown corporations to "collect and manage resource rents and to undertake the full range of expenditures required to collect these rents -- roads, communications, royalty collection services, regulatory oversight and the like -- with resulting 'net' royalties forwarded to the provinces as a 'dividend,' as with the hydro Crowns."

Such silly gamesmanship and the kind of demeaning verbal assaults of the sort we've seen from Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams and Saskatchewan's Lorne Calvert may be no way to run a federation, but that's what inequitable national programs and cynically opportunistic moves by the federal government invite.

If Alberta, which has enjoyed the full benefit of its resources for years, can find itself in trouble in the future because of public demands, imagine what it means to a Saskatchewan that's now depleting its one-time resources for virtually no gain."

Maybe that will enlighten you, Kingston.

hank said...

So in answer to your question, Joanne, NO.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Just think of all the political capital Alberta MPs have spent, by staying silent while Harper accomodates Quebec.

C.J. - Good point. It's almost as if Harper is the parent, and all the kids are screaming. If he gives one of them a blue lollipop then the other one wants that blue lollipop as well has his own yellow one. And then another kid starts screaming because she wants what they have and then some!

No pleasing all the kids. At some point you just have to law down the law, because they're all jealous of each other and greedy.

BTW, thanks to everyone for these awesome comments. I can't reply to every one individually but I do read them all!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

So in answer to your question, Joanne, NO

No, that you don't think Harper's on the right track, Hank? Thanks for the article you posted. Interesting reading. Let's see what some of the others think.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Kingston, thanks for that link to Clangmann's post. Great stuff there and the comments are good too. Definitely worth the read.

Personally, I'm no expert in economics or finances. I have a probably greater than normal interest in the topic here, because of it's political implications. What I'm seeing on TV though is that the East Coast folks who the MSM choose to highlight on their "man in the street" interviews are seeing this as Harper reneging on a promise or a contract. i.e. selling out the East Coast provinces.

The opposition parties are framing this as "if this government can break promises to the East Coast, then it can break promises to anyone". Utter hogwash, but I fear that the man on the street is buying it.

Anonymous said...

Just how much time did PMSH spend with the Terminator Governor?

Asta-la-vista baby!

WCTeddi and loving every minute!

hank said...

''What the Atlantic premiers are doing amounts to a giant slap in the face to us knuckle-dragging rednecks out here in Alberta. Maybe we should take our resources off the table too, but oh....wait....that wouldn't be fair to the rest of the country. The hypocrisy is burning my eyes.''

Alberta's resources ARE off the table.

Kingston said...

Hank, Thank for the article, interesting reading, although it doesn't address my point of Sask not having a signed agreement in the first place. I think the suggestion concerning the crown corp is fairly interesting. My real b*tch here is with NL not Sask if the information in the previously provided chart is correct.

Hank, If you think it is fair for any province receiving equalization to have a higher fiscal per person capacity then the provinces doing the paying then we are going to have to agree to disagree. Would you support this plan if Harper said " OK, this is not worth the crap, you win Danny, and Danny then announced free secondary education in NL". I am totally totally in favor of equalization but it has to be fair.

The only way I would in anyway even consider approving of this would be if this three provinces committed to pledging all of the royalties to paying down their respective provincial debts thus freeing up debt repayment charges for other social programs. After said debt is paid, then have another look at it.

Joanne Your very welcome

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Now Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald is shaking a big stick!

If the budget ends up stuck in the Liberal-dominated Senate, Mike Duffy wondered tonight if we could possibly have an election, because there would be a constitutional crisis. The budget is crucial.

hank said...

Kingston, Sask. did not have a signed agreement but Harper and the Conservatives explicitly promised to exclude non-renewable resources from equalization in the last election. Promise made, promise broken. And you did ask what is SK b*tching about.
As for debt repayment, I could not agree more.
It should be noted that Alberta received equalization payments from '57 to '64, which allowed them to develop their oil and gas industry and put them in the position they are in now.

There is much that is unfair in our system of taxes, transfers, etc. Is it fair that the taxes of working poor Canadians are transfered to rich farmers?
A recent study showed that cities pay far more in taxes than they receive in services. Fair?
If you want to address unfairness, put everything on the table, not just what favours Conservatives.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

If anyone is interested, David Akin has a post up on his CTV politics blog. The guy has the day off and he's still plugged into his Blackberry and writing! There is one dedicated reporter.

Kingston said...

Hank , Thanks for the reply. As to discussing the entire federal tax regime, there is not enough room on Joannes host server for my b*tchs about that. Your comment concerning cities and rural is interesting and I will do a little research before I reply although I would initially find it hard to believe just by quickly computing health care, policing, for example the LPC proposed daycare program for example. As to putting a conservative view on things I am afraid I must leave that to others and continue to judge each situation as my life experiences and the common sense that my good old maritime parents instilled in me dictates. I kid you not, I decide who is getting my vote on the way to the booth.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I am afraid I must leave that to others and continue to judge each situation as my life experiences and the common sense that my good old maritime parents instilled in me dictates.

Your parents sound like wise people, Kingston. And you sound very non-partisan and objective. I certainly am heartened to hear this kind of good old fashioned common sense.

PGP said...

The so called bonus was welfare.

And the rule on welfare is that if you have your own income and claim welfare you're going to be told to give that welfare cheque back!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

PGP - Right on!