“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Are we hopelessly naive or what? Tuesday, Premier Kathy Dunderdale seemed almost aflutter with the idea that a campaigning Stephen Harper might come to town and promise loan guarantees for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.
“The prime minister is coming on Thursday, and I’m looking forward to that with a great deal of anticipation, and we’ll see what Thursday brings,” she said. “I’ve said time and time again that I would be struck amazed if the prime minister wasn’t supportive of Muskrat Falls. It’s a very good project for the people of the province.”
That may well be happening today — but even if it does, no one should be struck amazed if any promise made turns out to be completely hollow, despite the sudden flocking of provincial Tories to the campaign launches of federal Conservative candidates.
Because it’s happened before.
For those with short memories, then-premier Danny Williams wrote to Stephen Harper during the 2006 election campaign, and asked specifically about whether a Harper government would provide loan guarantees for the Lower Churchill project. Harper wrote back that his party “would welcome discussions” on a project they supported “in principle.”
Williams took that to mean he had the prime minister’s support. He didn’t.
And that wasn’t the only bit of flimflammery.
That year, Harper also wrote “we will remove” non-renewable resources from the equalization formula.
He repeated that when asked about equalization, saying: “We’re certainly aware of the commitments we made in the 2006 election campaign, and our government does pride itself on fulfilling its commitments.”
Heck, Harper was making the same promise as far back as 2004, when he said in Parliament “This is a commitment that was made by me in my capacity as leader of the Canadian Alliance when I first arrived here and has it origins in the intentions of the Atlantic Accord signed by former Prime Minister (Brian) Mulroney in the mid-1980s. These are longstanding commitments, our commitment to 100 per cent of non-renewable resource royalties. It was our commitment during the election, before the election, and it remains our commitment today.”
In fact, Harper did not do anything of the kind — he took equalization in another direction entirely, capping financial returns to provinces in a move that the provincial government classed as deceit.
Here was Williams, talking about how that election promise turned out: “Stephen Harper came into our province and said, essentially, here is my promise to you: elect me and my party and we will give you more than what you have now, because it is the right thing to do. … Yesterday, he told the people of Newfoundland and Labrador ... that his promises do not matter, and they most certainly cannot be relied upon.”
Yet here we are again, in the midst of a federal election campaign, breathlessly waiting to see if Harper will come to town and bestow yet another promise of federal largesse. Are we rubes, or what? To hear Dunderdale talk about it, the value of federal loan guarantees to the project is priceless.
The actual value of those promises from federal candidates during a federal election?