Add to My Yahoo!
  Home Wednesday, 08 July 2009 
Main Menu
 In Brief
 Ottawa Scene
 Canadian Provinces
 USA Today
 Countries of the World
 Key Current Issues
 Crime Stories
 Sporting Life
 Canadian Republic
 Heritage Now
 Contact Us
 We Recommend
 Privacy Policy

Login Form


Remember me
Forgotten your password?
No account yet? Create one

Today In History
On July 8, 1909
1st pro baseball game (minor league) played under lights

musiclibre web media sharing and recommendations

IF YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY ... Not all that long ago now President Barack Obama "announced that ... grants will be available for those wishing to do research in renewable energy ... such as wind [and] solar." The next day "German industrial conglomerate Siemens AG said ... it will acquire a 28 per cent stake in Archimede Solar Energy S.p.A. to expand its expertise in solar thermal power plants." Meanwhile, for mere mortals who just want to know more the OpenSolar blog in the San Francisco Bay Area has been expanding its resources for letting you "ask questions about solar technology and get personal answers from experienced solar professionals and installation owners." All this remains one big piece in the big new clean-energy future that lies ahead. You can check it out in depth at ABOUT OPEN SOLAR!

CANADA AND ITS PROVINCES .. did not really do anything at Harper’s first first ministers’ dinner?   PDF  Print 
Written by Randall White  
Friday, 11 January 2008  

UPDATED JANUARY 12. The Harper Conservative minority government in Canada, some argue, believes that the provinces should do the lion’s share of the heavy lifting in the 21st century federation. A properly lean federal government just looks after defence, equalization payments, and arranging luncheons at the Parliament Pub in Ottawa. If this were true, you might think that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would be keen to consult with provincial governments. But there are those who theorize that this is one federal prime minister who couldn’t care less what the provinces say they think. Perhaps to pretend to disprove this theory, Mr. Harper suddenly summoned all first ministers of the land to dinner at 24 Sussex in Ottawa on Friday, January 11, 2008. What has this gathering accomplished for we the federal and provincial taxpayers? Probably not much, the Globe and Mail in Toronto predicted. But who knows? A bit down the road it may also seem somewhat interesting, nonetheless.



Cw editor's update: January 12

It would seem that the sceptics were right, and nothing of great consequence happened at the dinner. A $1-billion federal economic assistance program appears to be the main "output" (see below) — and that happened before the dinner began.

Some will find it interesting, however, that the main Google list on the event contains mostly information from Ontario (as of January 12, 6 PM, at least). The report in the Globe and Mail, e.g.,  is called "Premiers cite jobs losses to pressure PM." And in the Toronto Star it’s "PM serves char, strudel — and tough beans."  

At the same time, there apparently has been some interest elsewhere as well. A Western Canadian report in the Calgary Herald is called "Premiers dinner gets mixed reviews — First ministers swap remedies, seek PM's aid."

Dr. White's earlier background report follows: 


1. Did Ontario and Quebec really call this meeting?

There are several irksome sides to the wild world of Canadian regionalism. One of the most ancient, from coast to coast to coast, involves the two largest and more or less geographically "central" provinces of Ontario and Quebec (who were once united in a single very large old bi-cultural British North American province — from 1841 to 1867).

According to the Toronto Star on January 4, Prime Minister Harper rather suddenly asked the 10 provincial premiers (and three territorial leaders) to dinner on January 11, "following a push from McGuinty and Charest" — the premiers of Ontario and Quebec. Jean Charest seemed to confirm this report, in some televised remarks he made following a preliminary January 10 meeting with Dalton McGuinty, at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa — "to develop a common front" for the January 11 dinner with Mr. Harper and all the other provincial and territorial leaders.

As the Toronto Star further reported, "Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Quebec Premier Jean Charest have been pushing for a national economic summit amid unease over the surging Canadian dollar, soaring energy prices and lost manufacturing jobs." In response apparently, Prime Minister Harper finally "indicated that the discussion [at the January 11 first ministers’ dinner, at the prime minister’s official 24 Sussex residence] will focus on the economy, with a secondary agenda of strengthening the federation. But the economy is the focal point."

In this context, you might be forgiven if you are a bit surprised by the specific proposal that Premiers McGuinty and Charest came up with at their preliminary meeting on January 10. Their two provincial governments (and the federal government, it seems) will be sponsoring a one-year $2-million study of a high-speed passenger rail service between Quebec City and Windsor, Ontario (running through Montreal and Toronto too, along the way, of course).

This is an idea that has been discussed and even studied on a number of occasions, during the past quarter century or more. The concept has a few clear environmental and east-west nation-building attractions in Canada (or at least central Canada). The problem has always been whether it could ever attract the number of riders that would justify its considerable up-front expense.

Some regional historians have even seen the Quebec City-Windsor High-Speed Railway concept as a descendant of the 19th and earlier 20th century concept of a Georgian Bay Canal, between the Upper Great Lakes and the Ottawa River. The Georgian Bay Canal was also studied to death, without ever finally seeing any practical light of day — which may or may not still happen with the Quebec-Windsor Railway, even with the blessing of Premiers McGuinty and Charest. (We do indeed have a unique tradition of linking economic development and public infrastructure in Canada — that not even the rigorous free-marketer Stephen Harper can apparently shake?)

2. Is Prime Minister Harper’s new $1-billion economic adjustment fund a good idea?

On January 10 as well Prime Minister Harper himself announced his own government’s entry for the focus on the increasingly troubled Canadian (and North American) economies at his January 11 first ministers’ dinner — "flanked by New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham ... at a lumber mill in the town of Tracyville, NB, south of Fredericton."

As reported by the CBC: "Harper said the government will establish a community development trust fund, which will be used to support worker retraining and skills development, and community transition ... Each province will get $10 million in base funding, while territories will each receive $3 million, Harper said. The remaining money in the trust will be divided among the provinces and territories on a per capita basis ... ‘The program is aimed at one-industry towns facing major downturns, or communities plagued by chronic high unemployment, or regions hit by layoffs across a range of sectors,’ Harper said."

Premier Graham of New Brunswick seemed pleased enough by this federal announcement: "‘These are indeed difficult times for the forestry industry, workers and communities right across Canada,’ Graham said, noting the aid will amount to about $30 million over three years for New Brunswick ... ‘Forestry has long been the engine that drives the New Brunswick economy, and the recent downturn has hurt our province.’"

Manitoba Premier Gary Doer also had some warm words for Mr. Harper’s proposed new federal program, speaking with Don Newman on CBC Newsworld’s Politics. Premier Doer seemed especially impressed by his understanding that each province would be able to weave its own economic development spending priorities into the federal funding program.

Neither Premier McGuinty nor Premier Charest from Ontario and Quebec, however, could bring themselves to do more than damn with faint praise, when they commented on Mr. Harper’s announcement at the end of their own January 10 meeting. They had two particular objections.

The first was that the federal money, while welcome, was nowhere near enough to cope with the real problem: "McGuinty said his government has already provided $3 billion in emergency aid to Ontario's ailing manufacturing and forestry sectors. The federal aid announced Thursday will only provide Ontario with about $350 million extra, he said ... Charest said the government of Quebec has given its ailing industries about $2 billion in support, while the federal money will only amount to $200 million for Quebec ... ‘Just look at the proportion there,’ he said. ‘We're talking about $200 million compared to $2 billion. That's 10 per cent effort compared to what we've already done. It's simply not adequate.’"

The second objection was that: "‘The [federal] assistance is on condition of the passage of a [federal] budget,’ Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said ... ‘I think that all Canadians understand the urgency of the need to come to the assistance of the manufacturing sector,’ McGuinty added. "If we're really talking about an emergency situation, it seems to me that the assistance that is being contemplated should be provided immediately ... ’"

Some union leaders seconded these objections: "Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, said the aid simply is not sufficient, while Dave Coles, the president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, slammed the announcement ... ‘There is nothing that even acknowledges the crisis in the forest sector,’ he said. ‘This is simply an attempt to blackmail the other [federal] political parties into voting for the [federal] budget.’"

3. Does strengthening the federation also make at least some sense in economic hard times?

In a very critical January 7 editorial the Toronto Globe and Mail noted that in his letter to the premiers about the January 11 dinner Prime Minister Harper "correctly dismisses provincial calls for federal action to lower the value of the Canadian dollar. He boasts about Ottawa's increased investments in infrastructure and provincial transfer payments. He outlines recent corporate and personal income-tax cuts. He pointedly notes that the provinces could spur growth by lowering their interprovincial trade barriers. In a single sentence, he recognizes that certain economic sectors are in trouble as they adjust ‘to new global realities, skilled labour shortages and the high Canadian dollar.’ Then he calls for talks on legislation to limit the federal spending power and to elect senators. His priorities are discouraging."

Presumably the last two points relate to Mr. Harper’s subsidiary concerns about "strengthening the federation." And limiting the federal spending power might not make a great deal of sense in hard economic times (if that is what does indeed lie before us now, in some degree), especially for smaller provinces. But if a strong federal government is something that can help Canadians adjust to yet another round of dramatic change in the global economy (as Jean Chretien used to say it is, e.g.), then taking some serious steps towards reforming the current unreformed Senate of Canada — to give the federal voice greater credibility in all regions of the country (and not just Ontario and Quebec, or even BC and Alberta) — could make a lot more sense than many of Mr. Harper’s critics still seem to recognize. Will there ever be a time when the Globe and Mail editors (or those at the Toronto Star, for that matter) somehow discover this unsung pearl in Stephen Harper’s Western Canada regional briefcase?

4. Why is January 11 also the deadline for Dr. Johnston’s Mulroney-Schreiber saga report?

Mr. Harper’s briefcase no doubt does contain many other clever tricks as well — along with still far too many that are too clever by half?

So it was also interesting to read in the Globe and Mail that: "The next chapter in the Mulroney-Schreiber saga will be written no later than Friday [January 11] – the deadline for an independent adviser appointed by the Harper government to propose terms of reference for a public inquiry ... The special adviser, University of Waterloo president David Johnston, was spotted on Parliament Hill Wednesday afternoon ... Calls to his office Thursday were redirected to the Privy Council Office, which advises the prime minister and cabinet." (And on Friday, January 11 itself, Prime Minister Harper did announce a limited public inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber saga, as advised by Dr. Johnston!) 

Note in the same twisted Ottawa political context, assorted other recent newspaper gleanings: "Polls suggests Tories now ahead of Liberals"; "Disaster financial assistance will come quicker, Day says";"Fire Lunn over isotope crisis, Dion says"; and "Poll suggests Canadians would back any candidate Democrats run in U.S. election."

A final interesting enough recent Globe and Mail article is entitled "We like minority governments, poll shows." And in a similar vein, check out these musings from Warren Kinsella’s always fascinating Canadian political blog, just a few days back: "In 2008 ... Conservatives have embraced what is effectively a two-pronged strategy. One prong: remain in government as long as possible, to ensure that Canadians get more familiar with the Prime Minister, his team, and his ideas. The other prong: pursue initiatives that are comparatively modest, and ensure that government is being steered by a ‘steady hand’ and all of that kind of stuff. Don't get too ambitious. Asked ... if this approach is likely to work, Conservative strategists suddenly become uncertain again. What is certain, they say, is that the approach that characterized their first two years in government did not get them what they lusted after most of all ... enough popularity to secure a Parliamentary majority. So something had to change ..." As Mr. Kinsella also concludes: "It's going to be interesting ... But not too interesting." Just like the dinner at 24 Sussex on Friday, January 11 ... ?


Only registered users can write comments.
Please login or register.

Powered by AkoComment 1.0 beta 2!

Last Updated ( Friday, 15 February 2008 )

: Home :: In Brief :: Ottawa Scene :: Canadian Provinces :: USA Today :: Countries of the World :: Key Current Issues :: Entertainment :: Crime Stories :: Sporting Life :: Canadian Republic :: Heritage Now :: Contact Us :: We Recommend :: Privacy Policy :
counterweights magazine - political debate
powered by mambo open source designed by peekmambo and fluid web design
counterweights is part of the good content network