Harper and Ignatieff play budget politics

Lana
Lana Payne
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It gives a whole new meaning to the devil being in the details.

By now, every Newfoundlander and Labradorian knows that buried in the fine print of this week's federal budget was a spiteful and damaging economic blow to the province. The Harper Conservatives changed the equalization rules as they apply to Newfoundland and Labrador.

The loss to the province, according to Premier Danny Williams, will be up to $1.6 billion over the next three years.

It gives a whole new meaning to the devil being in the details.

By now, every Newfoundlander and Labradorian knows that buried in the fine print of this week's federal budget was a spiteful and damaging economic blow to the province. The Harper Conservatives changed the equalization rules as they apply to Newfoundland and Labrador.

The loss to the province, according to Premier Danny Williams, will be up to $1.6 billion over the next three years.

At a time when oil prices have plummeted and the world has been plunged into a global financial and economic crisis, this action by the Harper Conservatives to deliver such a devastating, economic pounding and in such a fashion speaks to just how low politics in Canada has fallen.

And at a time when the world has been so inspired by U.S. President Barack Obama and his message of hope, we, in Canada, have been left with political leadership that triumphs fear over hope. We have been left with the antithesis of Obama. We have been left with Stephen Harper.

It is no wonder Canadians are so disenfranchised with politics and politicians. We have a prime minister whose idea of politics is one of gamesmanship and one-upmanship rather than nation building.

Harper could learn a lot from Obama. He could learn about leadership - real leadership - the kind of leadership we need when times are tough and people are losing their jobs, their homes and watching their dreams go up in smoke.

He could learn that it's not always about winning; that sometimes it's about something bigger. He might learn that it's not all about him; his power, his ego, his dogma, his vision of the world. He might learn that getting out of big messes means working with others, with a whole heart rather than the half-heart he brought to Parliament on budget day.

But he won't. Because unfortunately for us, it's just not in his DNA, as one commentator noted.

At a time when Canada needs not just smart, competent, economic leadership, but inspirational leadership, we're stuck with Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty.

And when Obama comes to Canada next month the contrast between the two leaders will be striking.

But then after this week's budget and the total failure of the Liberals to use the bargaining power they had to get a better economic stimulus plan for Canadians, it appears the kind of leadership Canada needs is not just lacking on the Conservative benches.

Michael Ignatieff might have had to "swallow hard" to choke down his support for the inadequate plan, but what he really did was cave.

The real reason Ignatieff did nothing is it's also all about him; his ambitions, his aspirations to be prime minister without having to share power - which this week he placed over the real needs of the Canadian people.

He may be able to articulate his message a little better for English-speaking Canada than the last Liberal leader, but the result is the same.

The federal budget was a cleverly spun document. It tried to scare Canadians with big numbers by announcing spending for the next two years, rather than in just this fiscal year. But not even two years' worth of spending could cover up the fact the so-called stimulus was just half of what was recommended by the International Monetary Fund to the G-20 countries and which the Harper government agreed to do.

Given the strings attached to the money, especially the infrastructure dollars, it's unlikely that what was announced will ever have an economic impact, as it will never get spent.

The Harper government has failed to get out ahead of the economic train wreck. And, just as importantly, it has failed to help Canada's unemployed.

That's not to say that the Harp-erites were happy with this budget. Much of what they announced was done in order to save their own political necks, not because they actually believed in it. In fact, had the Conservatives won a majority, we'd be looking at a very different budget today.

So, Ignatieff wasn't the only political leader swallowing hard on budget day. Stephen Harper had to choke down his own budget, squirming in his chair while he did so. Although he probably took a moment to smugly smile when he thought of his retaliation against Newfoundland and Labrador buried in the budget annexes.

And that is the real problem with politics. Too often, people - living, breathing human beings with families - are never taken into consideration as the game of politics is played out.

Lana Payne is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by e-mail at lanapayne@nl.rogers.com. Her column returns Feb. 14.

Organizations: Harper Conservatives, International Monetary Fund, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, U.S.

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Recent comments

  • Gerald
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    Are left leaners coached to include Obama in every speech they make and every article they right. There, no doubt, a lot of hype in mentioning Obama , but he is untried. I hope he turns out to be what everyone hopes he will be, but, let's not make him into a god, unless over the long term, he deserves it.
    But whatever joy or jump you get from saying Obama, Obama , fill your boots!

  • Bob
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Wow! All of this condemnation based on one source - Danny Williams. I would expect a little more reseach and maybe some quotes form the actual budget that clearly shows we are being picked on. Where, also, is there some colloboration that the Prime Minsiter is picking on NL from a position of spite and retaliation. An opinion is one thing, Ms. Payne, but a published opinion should have more support with good research. I would like to see you write a piece on how you feel Danny Williams is dealing with the nurses of this province - is there any spite and retaliation?

  • Gerald
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    Are left leaners coached to include Obama in every speech they make and every article they right. There, no doubt, a lot of hype in mentioning Obama , but he is untried. I hope he turns out to be what everyone hopes he will be, but, let's not make him into a god, unless over the long term, he deserves it.
    But whatever joy or jump you get from saying Obama, Obama , fill your boots!

  • Bob
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    Wow! All of this condemnation based on one source - Danny Williams. I would expect a little more reseach and maybe some quotes form the actual budget that clearly shows we are being picked on. Where, also, is there some colloboration that the Prime Minsiter is picking on NL from a position of spite and retaliation. An opinion is one thing, Ms. Payne, but a published opinion should have more support with good research. I would like to see you write a piece on how you feel Danny Williams is dealing with the nurses of this province - is there any spite and retaliation?