One of the delights of being on federal cabinet minister Peter Penashue's email list is getting his especially strident and hyperbolic weekend press releases. They are, for some reason, in a class of their own - whether it's a knee-jerk response to the latest statement by NDP MP Ryan Cleary or a pronouncement on economy, the weekend releases are particularly out there.
This weekend had one of the most entertaining yet: it could be called "Shut up and be happy - this cutback budget's good for you."
Here's a sample from the second paragraph.
"The notion of this budget bill not being good for Newfoundland and Labrador is completely ridiculous and the NDP and Liberals should be utterly ashamed of themselves for deliberately alarming and misinforming their constituents for nothing more than their own political gain. They are doing a disservice to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."
That's right: forcing seasonal workers to take lower paying jobs or cutting their benefits, laying off thousands of civil servants, cutting protection to fish species and trimming environmental legislation isn't scary at all: through the Penashue lens, it's all good.
Why? Because rural workers will be connected to non-existant jobs faster, among other things.
"Changes to the employment insurance program will connect people to jobs faster. A $21-million investment will see that claimants with the required skills are connected with jobs available in their community. This also will see us base EI benefits on local labour market conditions. In areas with high unemployment rates, including rural Newfoundland and Labrador, benefits will be based on the worker's best 14 weeks of earnings in the past year or since their last claim. We are also making sure all EI claimants can always make themselves better off by accepting work while on claim, by allowing them to keep half of every dollar they make while on claim with no upper limit. These are significant changes that will not hurt seasonal workers in Newfoundland and Labrador but will benefit them."
Cutting federal civil servants?
"Beyond these measures, we're consolidating services and eliminating redundancy within federal departments. The resulting savings for Newfoundland and Labrador taxpayers will be huge, and will not result in any reduction of services."
Sorry to be argumentative, but the savings will be negligible - they will trim the federal budget deficit, but that won't put money back into taxpayers' hands, not like, say, dumping plans for multibillion-dollar fighter jets would.
But perhaps the best line in the release is the last one: "Our Conservative government's budget will be good for EI claimants, taxpayers, businesses and resource development in Newfoundland and Labrador. By misrepresenting and opposing the measures in our budget, the Liberal and NDP MPs from this province are putting their own partisan interests ahead of the economic well-being of our province, which is simply reprehensible."
Putting partisan interests "ahead of the economic well-being of our province" is "simply reprehensible."
Duly noted. Now, Mr. Penashue, where did you put that mirror?