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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Ultimate Political Escape Route - Saving Face

Fact: On Friday January 11 the Provincial and Territorial leaders will spend an afternoon with Stephen Harper, supposedly discussing the economy and the rising Canadian dollar.

Speculation: There are those who suspect the long standing battle over equalization will once again come to the fore when Danny Williams and the newly minted Premier of Saskatchewan enter the room.

Prediction: Forget about it.

This meeting will turn out exactly as it's billed, a chat about the economy and nothing more (at least from Newfoundland and Labrador's perspective).

At this point in time both Premier Williams and Prime Minister Harper are toning things down. They've both been very non-confrontational since meeting back in November and even though Williams gave Harper a deadline for resolution, one supposedly marked by this meeting, the subject will not be discussed.

A lot has already been said in the media over the past several month, the positions of each man is well known to the other and there is little for either man to gain, but much to lose, in turning up the heat at this time.

No doubt there is movement afoot behind the scenes to make the entire issue go away before the next federal election. Harper doesn't want a loose cannon crisscrossing the Country while on the hustings and it's doubtful Williams really want's to spend so much time taking on an anti-campaign.

With the rhetoric on low simmer and the issues having slipped from the national spotlight the opportunity is there for both men to "save face" and come out of this with a compromise they can both live with. That opportunity will disappear if the upcoming meeting ends in another blood bath.

At this point Williams knows he is not going to get the full 10 billion the Harper election promise would have provided. Harper knows Williams' public and internal party disturbances are not simply going to go away.

Whether you like or hate either man one thing nobody can argue is their intelligence and it is this intelligence that will lead to a solution before Canadians go to the polls.

The trick here is for Williams to make some limited gains (perhaps a loan guarantee on the lower churchill and some other serious funding for projects or infrastructure) and for Harper to appear not to have given in to the province's demands. The only question remaining is how they will accomplish these two goals and that's something most of us will come to suspect but may never truly know.

In the coming months there are likely to be some announcements or developments that involve the federal government and the province but they won't be publicly announced as "compensation for the wrongs committed by Ottawa". Such an announcement would prevent Mr. Harper from saving face and at this point saving face is far more important to him than the original issue itself.

Don't look for any fireworks at the First Minister's meeting this week but keep your eyes and ears sharply tuned in for a period of unexpected federal / provincial co-operation over major projects in the coming year.


Anonymous said...

I know this is a little off topic but I hope you'll post it anyway. I found it interesting and in a way it's related since it deals with the oil industry and another fight we had with Ottawa over fallow field legislation.

Excerpt from the Globe and Mail December 27

It’s the kind of power Danny Williams could only dream about as he battled with Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and other members of a consortium over development of the Hebron field.

Before striking an agreement last summer, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador had complained loudly that he lacked the stick commonly wielded by other jurisdictions - the ability to force oil companies to "use it or lose it” - either develop their leases or have them rescinded.

Now, a judge in Alaska has ruled that the state government does indeed have that right to rescind, essentially upholding its decision to strip Exxon, Chevron, BP PLC, and ConocoPhillips Co. of their Arctic oil and gas leases.

In a Boxing Day ruling, Alaska Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason found that the state was within its rights in 2006 when it stripped the companies of valuable oil and gas resources they had held since the 1970s because they had failed to develop the properties.

The judge made a small concession to the companies by ordering the state to hold hearings to determine if Exxon et al could persuade the government not to do what it has already done. As one state official explained to Bloomberg news service: “We just have to hear them out.”

The companies said that, over the past three decades, they have spent more than $800-million (U.S.) to develop the field, 80 kilometres east of Prudhoe Bay on the state’s North Slope. But they can’t proceed further without a pipeline. Critics said they were “warehousing” the resources in order to squeeze better terms out of the state governments, which is exactly the kind of threat that Mr. Williams faced over Hebron...

Anonymous said...

A Canadian Press Harris/Decima survey asked respondents to choose the kind of split they'd ideally like to see in a hypothetical Parliament of 100 seats.

The results, on average, gave 36 seats to the Liberals, 31 to the Conservatives, 15 to the NDP, 10 to the Bloc Quebecois and eight to the Green party.

Projecting those percentages to the actual House of Commons of 308 seats, the Liberals would end up with 111 seats rather than their current 96 and the Tories would have 95 instead of their present 126.

The NDP would have 46 seats instead of 30, the Bloc 31 instead of 49 and the Greens 25 rather than zero.

The Liberals came out ahead largely because they were seen as a palatable alternative by NDP and Green voters. By contrast, the Conservatives were the second choice for most Bloc voters.

Bruce Anderson, the president of Harris/Decima, says the numbers can be taken as a warning signal to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his current Conservative regime.

The Liberal brand name has historically been the one that "people feel more comfortable migrating to, if not as their first choice then as their second ," said Anderson.

"And I think that's the case right now."

He was quick to caution, however, that one poll doesn't mean the Liberals are necessarily on their way to power in the next election.

For example, other surveys have consistently shown Harper is perceived as a stronger leader than Liberal chief Stephane Dion - a factor that could turn the tide back in the Tories' favour in the heat of a campaign.

The real bottom line, said Anderson, is that voters are ready to accept another "polyglot Parliament" no matter which party comes out on top.

That's because they're much less partisan than the politicians who compete for their favour - and may be willing to engage in strategic voting to keep the balance from tipping too far in any direction.

"People who support (various) parties also want to see other parties have significant representation in the House," said Anderson.

"Conservative voters feel that way about the Liberal party and Liberal voters feel that way about the Conservative party. The idea that everybody is at daggers drawn . . . just isn't the way Canadians feel about their political choices today."

The poll of just over 1,000 voters was conducted Dec. 13-17 and is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times in 20.

A traditional party preference poll - conducted at the same time and previously reported - found 30 per cent of respondents favoured the Conservatives and 32 per cent the Liberals.

Calvin said...

January 09, 2008 2:04 PM if I could add something to this Myles.It really shows what some have been saying in the province.That Canada will be hard pressed to get another majority governemnt for a long while.Nice to see how regionalism will create the next federal governement.My only concern is will the people of Newfoundland and Labrador wake -up and see this befor they vote

Very good news for those of us that wish to see the rise of a new federal party in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.Very good news indeed.

OH ,and pardon me ,very well done Patriot.:)

Glenn said...

Hi everyone,

don't forget about the Johnson report due out tomorrow regarding Mulroney-Schreiber. No coincidence that Harper called the first ever premiers meeting on the same day as the Johnson report was to be due out.

Prediction: Johnson recommends no further inquiry needed, refers any further action to the bi-partisan parliamentary committee. Premiers come out of the meeting with the PM and will want to talk about what needs to be done to keep the economy rolling and emphasis on the environment. They will be leery to discuss Mulroney-Schreiber.

For me there's one issue which takes precedent over all others.

Caron emissions.

The premier has stated publicly that he is on side with the PM's plan to reduce CO2 emissions. Brad Wall, SK's new premier, also has indicated that he plans to ramp up oil and gas extraction as well as uranium and potash mining. SK has oilsands like AB, though not nearly the size but still very significant, and Premier Wall and the Sask party has big plans for that area. (Access can be made to the SK oilsands from the AB side since the oil companies built a road to the SK border from the Fort Mac area.) Both premiers are now "onside" with the Harper Gov because this is the greatest threat to their economic independence. If you think the battle over equalization money was a dandy, you ain't seen nothing yet.

The Liberals, Dippers, Bloc and Greens are all in favour of a cap and trade or carbon tax system. There's no other option for Alberta, SK, NL, NS, NWT, and probably BC but the CPC. The other parties represent a cost to all Canadians from everything we take for granted.

Right now, my vote is parked in the CPC camp. If they join the rest of the parties than I will join the AB Wild Rose party and the NL Republican Party.


Anonymous said...

Correction Glenn,

Carbon tax (if applied) would be applied to carbon producers (those burning the fuel) not those producing it. This might be still a big problem for Alberta as the oil sands requires a lot of energy to extract but traditional oil production does not.

It's the buyers of the oil that would pay.

Glenn said...

"It's the buyers of the oil that would pay."

Hmm, like seniors on fixed income paying for heating oil?

Like Marine Atlantic?

Like Holyrood?

Like everyone who owns a vehicle, heats there home, buys food, watches TV...

First you have to believe that man made global warming is the cause of climate change, which it is not. There is no correction needed on my part.

I'll start believing there's a crisis when those who are screaming there is a crisis start acting like there is a crisis.

Danny gets it, Harper gets it and Glenn gets it.

Anonymous said...

Good prediction Patriot. We all know politics is a game of chess in many ways. Often you win by making leading your opponent in one direction while moving in another yourself.

Williams knew long before the budget came down that 100% of non-renewables was not going to happen, promise or no promise. This opened the door for him to wage a battle that he knew he would not win but a war that he can. He can win that war and get what he truly wanted all along which is federal support for projects like the lower churchill, something the feds might not otherwise have been willing to get on board with in light of the Quebec factor.

So much of politics is played out below the radar that it's good to see someone like yourself who can read between the lines and get to the meat of the matter.

Good on ya!!!

NL-ExPatriate said...

Applying a carbon tax to the producers would do nothing but hurt ourselves. Since the vast majority of our oil gets exported why should we the producers have to pay a carbon tax on something others mainly americans will be using.

It is exactly the same reason we got rid of the manufactures tax and replaced it with the GST so we don't pay taxes on something other countries are consuming.

If there is to be a carbon tax it should be on the consumers that way we won't get penalized unfairly for being a producer.

Why not make all of the National Transportation System toll like the Marine Atlantic portion is. It is a user pays carbon tax.