There are often many opinions on how to win an election, but very few on how to lose one. One hour ago I watched Steven Harper stand in Newfoundland and Labrador and state that his government would give the province a loan guarantee, or financial equivalent thereof, for the Lower Churchill project. Assuming it met three criteria: environmentally sound; economically viable; and in the national interest. He sort of insinuated it met all three criteria, but he never came out and stated it did.
What troubled me even further were his comments some four hours earlier in Halifax: "The details still have to be worked out," said Harper, speaking in Halifax Thursday morning. "There is a lot of discussion still to come, but it is obviously an important project." In other words, there is no deal. There is a political interest in making a deal, but there is no deal. There is not even a written agreement. There is not even an agreement that it would be a loan guarantee or equivalent financial assistance. Consider for a moment that a loan guarantee does not physically cost the federal government a cent. Why then would he give equivalent financial assistance that presumably would cost real dollars? What is the definition of equivalent financial assistance?
This announcement of course was closely orchestrated for the purposes of gaining seats in this province. The ultimate goal being to secure a majority government. Here's the kicker. In doing so he set Quebec on fire. He gave the Bloc the best present they could ever wish for. A direct assault on their nationalistic hydro empire. The words had hardly left his lips and Charest and Duceppe were in the public screaming betrayal. Same goes for the hockey arena - except this is much worse. Most Quebecers didn't need a reason to hate Harper, and now they have a big one: aiding the mortal hydro enemy Newfoundland and Labrador. Conservative spinners came out immediately and spun the benefits of the Old Harry deal for Quebec. Problem is oil is not near and dear to Quebecer's hearts. They like the idea of dollars, but it goes against their "eco core values".
So now Quebec is on fire. Ontario next door gets concerned that Quebec is becoming unstable, and starts to take a long look at Steven Harper's ability to keep the country in relative harmony. They already have very difficult financial circumstances, and a large immigrant population all too familiar with instability. Ontario is traditionally the bridge between Quebec and the rest of the country. They look at Harper as unable to keep the balance in confederation. The West doesn't mind Quebec being on fire, and so it likely firms that base up - except British Columbia, BC already in play, splinters. That takes us back to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Home of the ABC campaign, and mostly proud of it. Many people here think Danny Williams did not create the ABC feeling. On the contrary, many believe he was a smart politician that got in front of the parade. The real ABC in this province is within the people. There are many historical grievances Newfoundland and Labrador has with the federal government, and the government of Quebec. The feelings run deep. When Steven Harper went back on his written commitment to exclude non-renewable resources from equalization the province was enraged. The betrayal went deep. Now the same prime minister is here again. Waving another big promise. This time the provincial Tory party is on his side. Unfortunately for the PM, the new premier is unable to deliver the people. They still aren't over the last, big broken promise. A recent VOCM poll showed almost 60% of the 14,000 who voted said it was a mistake for Ms Dunderdale to have warmer relations with the PM. Earlier in the day it was 79% out of 4,500 votes.
Now figure in Old Harry - the disputed oil field. While the feds siding with Quebec on boundaries made very little impact in Quebec (as they never doubted their entitlement), it did have a large and growing negative impact in this province. It is becoming common to hear people refer to a new betrayal - Quebec got our oil, and all we got was a loan guarantee on a project that will lose us money. No doubt the debate will heat up here over the next few weeks, but Newfoundland and Labrador is no where near a given for the Conservatives.
The really humorous part of today's announcement was listening to Mr Harper expound on the evils of the tax and spend Liberals (or Coaltion). I'm not sure if he did not realize that during his speech he promised to support similar mega projects throughout the country? The Lower Churchill project reflects a minimum of a 50% increase in our debt. Can Quebec, Ontario, and all the other provinces now build monolithic "green" projects with our federal government backing all of them? How is that being fiscally prudent when reducing debt and eliminating the deficit are the stated goals of the government? Quebec alone would be entitled to about $100 billion in guarantees. Could they use this for their Romaine dam projects? Slippery slope, and extremely dangerous precedent.
Tonight the Prime Minister lit a fire. Not in the hearts of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians - they don't believe him. No he lit a fire in Quebec. He doused his own flame in Ontario. He placed himself in the position of a politician who will say anything to keep power. Of course, that is apparently the reason used to fire his government for contempt of parliament.
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)