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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Billion Dollar Aid Plan or Billion Dollar Election Campaign?

This week the federal government, or more precisely the leading federal party, once again opted to play petty politics with the people’s lives rather than address the needs of the public.

On Thursday, in an effort to head off the provincial premiers, Stephen Harper announced a billion dollar fund to help displaced workers in the manufacturing and forestry industries.

The rising Canadian dollar and an economic slowdown with Canada’s biggest trading partner, the U.S., has forced many mills and factories to either let workers go or shut down completely. In response, the Harper government has announced a plan that is not only ludicrous in its approach but politically underhanded as well.

The plan would see nearly a billion dollars divided among the provinces to aid displaced workers in the one industry towns hit hardest by closures. Unfortunately, the plan is not only short sighted, it’s completely blind.

According to the federal government the funds are to be used to retrain workers, but for what?

Many of the displaced workers, though not all, are already well trained in the trade of their choice. Many mill workers, for example, are pipe fitters, electricians, truck drivers, etc. Many are also well into their forties or fifties. Is retraining really the best use of funding when you consider that in one industry towns there are not likely to be any other jobs to train for?

10 million is to be provided to each province with the remainder divided on a per capita basis. A simple means to address a complex problem and clearly a method that was determined to appease the larger provinces rather than address the problem itself.

No consideration was given to the fact that less money will flow to smaller provinces even though the loss of several hundred jobs in a small province can have an equivalent, or even larger, impact than the loss of thousands in a larger one. No thought was given to the fact that this method of distribution will see provinces like Alberta, with a booming economy, receive more of the funding than a place like Newfoundland and Labrador or New Brunswick, provinces that are more severely impacted by mill closures.

To top it all off Harper has decided to use a desperate situation as a political cattle prod with the opposition parties. By tying the funding to the upcoming federal budget vote this cold hearted and politically advantages move is clearly designed to make the opposition parties either a) support his budget and not force an election or b) allow Harper to campaign by saying his opposition prevented him from supporting the unemployed.

This is very reminiscent of the game played by former Prime Minister Paul Martin when he tied the Atlantic Accord contracts with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador to a federal budget bill. It was a move intended to gain political support for his government, one that almost ended in the contract being lost long before the current PM walked all over it.

Harper may want to watch his step if he hopes to take a page from the Paul Martin playbook on this. There’s a saying in political circles that voters have a short memory, but it would do Stephen Harper some good to remember that Paul Martin’s underhanded approach didn’t save his hide in the end when it came to the election.

I’m not a proponent of government stepping in to prop up failing industries that clearly have a poor business model. This is not one of those cases. It’s not like the history of Bombardier for example. This time it’s about helping thousands of unemployed people get over a hurdle in their lives that must surely be devastating.

The problem is that the entire plan is poorly thought out, over simplistic in its implementation and intended, not to really help anyone except the Harper government by stomping on the backs of those who so desperately need support.


time for a change said...

This is an atrocity. One billion dollars is laughable. Firstly, it should be in Newfoundland currency, not Canadian currency. And secondly, ALL of the money should be spent in Newfoundland.

Calvin said...

Clearly a step by the great satan ,and his party of false prophets to capture the hope's and the need's of ailing people's all across canada.

If thease people that need help the most would like to look at something as an excample,of how this government has helped the people of Atlantic Canada (especially Newfoundland and Labrador),they need look no farther then the Atlantic Accord.

If people in this country really want to recieve help from thier governement,then they should start by helping themselevs Patriot,and Vote this minority government out of office.

What makes this statment really sad Myles,is that I am a life long member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada .I waited thirteen years to see this party take office.I will not wait another thirteen years to see them get the boot .

God help us ,each and everyone if this Party gets a majority government.Especially those in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

God helps those that help themselve's.


PS,whatever happened to that great picture you had Myles.