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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sizing Up The Provincial & Federal Scene

Premier Danny Williams announced his new provincial cabinet this week. There were no major surprises but there were a few smaller ones.

The ouster of two ministers, Jack Byrne and Tom Osborne, from Municipal Affairs and Justice respectively, raised a few eyebrows. While Byrne’s ouster was unexpected, the replacement of Tom Osborne in the Justice portfolio had been rumored for some time.

Osborne’s replacement, Jerome Kennedy is a respected defense lawyer and there is speculation that the former minister may be planning to run for the federal conservatives in the next election, something that would not sit well with the Premier in light of his anti-Harper campaign.

The provincial cabinet grew by two new members flying in the face of Williams promises to shrink cabinet when he took office in the previous election. This move was not overly surprising however in light of the additional provincial revenues at his disposal and after the Premier essentially offered Labrador newcomer, Pattie Pottle, a post during the recent election campaign.

During that campaign there were many indications that Williams might lose all four Labrador ridings. In an effort to shore up support he all but promised the voters that if Ms. Pottle was elected she would receive a cabinet position. After she and two other PC candidates won in the area it was difficult if not impossible for the Premier to walk away from his promise. As a result we come to the biggest highlight of the new provincial cabinet…

…Labrador now has two cabinet ministers around the table, Pottle at Aboriginal Affairs and Hickey in Labrador Affairs. In the past these portfolios were combined and often managed in conjunction with other cabinet duties. Now, both are separate and each has the complete attention of a full time minister, both of whom are from Labrador.

For far too long many people in Labrador have felt forgotten by the provincial government and with good reason. Resource revenues from the region have helped fill provincial coffers for decades yet the area has often had to stand at the back of the line for infrastructure funding and government services.

It remains to be seen if a louder voice in cabinet will actually ease Labrador concerns but it’s certainly a start. Time will tell if the big land will finally receive the same kind of treatment from St. John’s as the province itself has been unsuccessfully seeking from Ottawa for years.

Speaking of Ottawa, on the federal scene Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, announced his fall financial update this week. In reality it was more of a mini-budget but the conservatives aren’t admitting as much.

The “update” will see a further 1% cut in the GST, personal and corporate income tax cuts and a small reduction in EI premiums for business and individuals. The most interesting part of the announcement is that the personal tax cuts are retroactive to January of 2007 meaning that they affect this year’s tax returns and the GST cut takes effect on January 1.

It seems Stephen Harper has made up his mind to force an election in the spring or early summer. Most likely they’ll accomplish this by structuring the March budget in a way that it offers a few more tax breaks they can run on yet includes something that even the Liberals, as desperate as they are to avoid an election, will not be able to sit by and take a pass on.

All the signs are there.

A week ago the Finance Minister was all over the news presenting himself as a champion for consumers after Canadians vented frustration because a high Canadian dollar was not being reflected in prices at the checkout.

The truth is that Flaherty did nothing to change this reality but by spring many prices will be in the process of falling naturally as old inventories work their way through the system and as retailers, hit by low Christmas sales, begin to force prices down. Whether a natural process or not, thanks to Flaherty’s antics, the conservative party is likely hoping for a bump when prices begin to fall in a few months.

In addition, the retroactive tax cuts announced this week will mean that spring is also the time when many taxpayers will receive a bigger tax refund than they would have otherwise. Spring is also the traditional time of year when large numbers of people consider two of the biggest purchases any of us ever make, automobiles and homes. Though the GST cut introduced this week will save the average buyer very little, anyone buying big ticket items will see substantial savings at a very opportune time for the Harper government.

The conservatives appear to be strategically aligning their stars in order to best position themselves for a spring majority election win.

As one opposition MP recently put it recently, “Don’t be fooled and make no mistake, the conservatives claim to be governing but they aren’t. In reality they’ve been campaigning ever since the last election.”

I guess it’s nothing new under the sun for a government to buy votes with the taxpayer’s own money, but the conservatives are clearly more strategic, calculating and subtle about it than governments have been before them.


Anonymous said...

So Harper is setting the stage to win a majority and Danny is setting the stage to send seven oppposition members to Ottawa. Anyone care to speculate on how well Newfoundland will do under that scenario?

My prediction, Harper will be able to completely and totally ignore Newfoundland and Danny then. Better hope that those offshore "deals" that Danny announced during the election get finalized soon. By the way, how are things going on that front?

Patriot said...

Hi Anon, I hope you're not suggesting that Harper would involve himself in the offshore deals and somehow throw a monkey wrench into them. After all, as someone told me recently, government has no business messing in a free market. Maybe you'd like to explain why you are tying one to the other.

As for 7 independent MPs, hell, they can't do any worse than the crowd of yes men up there now.

Anonymous said...

Well said Patriot. I'd like to see the looks on the faces of the Ontario and Quebec controlled Liberals and Conservatives if there is a minority govt. and the handful of NL independents hold the balance of power.

With that comes the power to broker concessions and keep a govt. alive or bring it down. I wouldn't look for too many smiles across Canada or in the national parties then.

LOL - I love it!!!

Calvin said...

November 01, 2007 6:32 PM

Hell ,i would role myself into a grave if I seen Newfoundland and Labrador send seven NLFirst Party members to Ottawa.

Ha,Ha,Ha,I wouldn't be able to contain myself Patriot.I think I would be standing on a corner with a Pink,White,and Green proudly flying ,along with a sign that said "what would Danny do".

I can still believe in miracles and the lottery doesn't look that tough after all.But,i have hope ,and sometimes thats enough.

calvin said...

Better hope that those offshore "deals" that Danny announced during the election get finalized soon.

Oh ,and if I may add patriot,does this person believe that this would actually help unity in this country or would that be the trigger for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to call for separation.

Anonymous said...


Mine is the first post....and I wasn't suggesting that Harper would throw a monkey wrench into those negotiations at all. My point being that Harper WILL win a majority in the next election (and I'll make a wager on that with you...name the stakes). Then if Nfld sends seven opposition members (let alone seven Bloc Nfld or whatever it is you call them) they will have no influence whatsoever and Harper will not need to worry about helping Nfld conservative caucus/cabinet members. That will lead to a situation where Nfld will get diddly-squat from Ottawa and Danny won't be able to do a thing about it. So, you had better hope that Danny can close those offshore deals, because that money/activity will be needed to keep the economy going.

Anonymous said...

If what you are espousing is the way Ottawa works here Anon. All the more reason we need to get out of this federation.

Calvin said...

November 02,2007 2:01 PM,

So Myles,you believe that Harper is going to win a majority,.........fair enough.

And,a bet to boot,WOW.OK ,I'm not a betting man ,but I'll take that wager.My stakes for the bet are thease.A double shot of Appleton Estate Rum (extra reserver) at Arons Pub,on you of course.With a picture of you,Jim Fiddler,and myself.(The picture has to be signed by yourself of course)

What your stakes are of course is totally up too you.But,you have my word ,that I will up-hold my end of the bet.

Now ,as for the situation that you are proposing.I see your point Myles,but have you taken into account the Ontario factor and the rising dollar.Or,the last Ontario provincal election.Ontario is starting to feel the effects of a western Prime Minister,and the effects of a rising dollar as hundreds of thousands flee for Buffalo to spend thier money.Then there are those that have no money to spend.Namely those 1,100 auto workers that are now unemployed because of that high dollar.

Now ,lets say he get's that majority and decides that hey,those damb Newfie's.They get enough,cut them off at the knees.Can you ,Myles, see this as a good thing or a bad thing.I myself see this as the greatest thing in the world.

What is that old saying Myles,let sleeping Dogs lie.

Harper is concerned with one thing and one thing only.Getting his agenda thru-out Canada and the end to Liberalism in this country as we now know it.Deep down inside Harpers main goal in life is to dig this so called cancer out of Canada.

Myles,if you think that this will be tolerated in canada ,i think that you had better have another talk to Rex.He might get away with it for four years ,but that will mean the death of the new Conservative Party befor it has a chance to grow.

There must be great benefits to change before canada will allow this to happen.I think the Liberial Party of canada has the same attitude.

Patriot said...

Hi calvin, I appreciate the offer of a bet, but I never said Harper would win a majority. What I said was he is trying to align everything so he will win it. Two different things entirely.

I don't know if he'll win one or not, I certainly hope not, but nobody knows. In politics a lot can happen in a day, let alone a few months.

As for the picture, not a problem as long as you buy the rum. LOL.