Steven Harper, back many years ago, was the champion of the Reform movement in Canada. It's two primary principles: fiscal reform; and democratic reform. That seems like a different age now. Five years into becoming Prime Minister we see a different man. A man consumed with control of the democratic process, and a man whose fiscal conservatism depends on the political environment.
Take the Lower Churchill hydro electric project as case in point. On Thursday the PM flew into Halifax and said: "The details still have to be worked out...There is a lot of discussion still to come, but it is obviously an important project." He then travelled onto St. John's where he announced to a room full of newly converted PC's: "With these criteria in mind...a re-elected Conservative government would provide a loan guarantee or financial equivalent to the Lower Churchill." That same day, during a one on one interview with NTV, he stated: " ...there is still a lot to be decided and worked out. I would rather get to a stage where we are ready to be very specific with how we are going to proceed." Fair enough, then why endorse it? The only answer to that is pure political manipulation.
In another day, and with another politician, that kind of electoral manipulation might be expected. It is a lot harder to digest when it comes from the man who wanted to create a democratic revolution in this country. The Newfoundland and Labrador loan guarantee request is roughly equal to 50% of it's current net debt. Forget that this province has a declining and aging population. Forget that it has the highest per capita debt already in the country. How can any government increase it's debt load by 50% on one project and remain financially viable.
Then there is the commitment to fund similar projects in a similar fashion thoughtout the country. Considering that most provinces expect equal per capita treatment when it comes to these things, how is the PM going to defend this? Quebec alone, with it's $234 billion dollar debt could conceivably demand $115 billion toward it's mammoth hydro projects. It could even demand compensation for money already spent on earlier or ongoing projects of the same nature. Then there is Ontario and Manitoba Hydro, and their projects. If the federal government provides loan guarantees for all these projects those funds will go against the country's debt. Even though it will be the provinces paying, and holding the debt, the value of the debt will increase our overall exposure. That will cause an increase in interest charged on the national debt.
This is being fiscally conservative? What it actually represents is a blatant attempt to secure seats in this province on the eve of a national election. Call a spade a spade. What it does do is buildup unrealistic expectations in one part of the country and inflame old grievances in another. Taken a step further, it creates a scorched earth policy in Quebec. Perhaps the logic is that "we can't win seats in Quebec, so we'll get them so upset they vote Bloc only and deny the Liberals any as well." That may be harsh, but inflaming separatist passions, and alienating the voters there can only have one result. Could also help the Conservatives as the Bloc has been supporting them for years. Is this the "new" democratic system that had been envisioned?
The bottom line is we have a Prime Minister coming into Newfoundland and Labrador making a promise to support a policy that is financially unsustainable - to say the least. His government concluded an offshore accord with Quebec that recognized disputed borders a day before his government fell. During the PMs most recent visit the federal government announced catastrophic cuts to the shrimping industry that hurt many regular Newfoundlanders. That was conveniently announced on the same day as the big Lower Churchill show. Our provincial government did not say a word about it. The red carpet was rolled out for the big show, and nobody cared about the thousands of rural Newfoundlanders that were to be devastated by the shrimp cuts. Again, the "new" and transparent democracy we have all fought so hard for. It is amazing how the principles that found and defined us can be set aside for power - a rather 'old school' practise for a Reformer.
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)