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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Is Harper's ecoTrust Really a Fiscal Imbalance Fund?

Is Harper taking his western base, particularly Alberta and Saskatchewan, for granted, yet again? Premiers Stelmach and Calvert are taking the Harper eco-Trust idea to task. They are calling for the funds to be distributed in a way that responds to solving the emission issues by focusing funds where the GHG problems are, like Alberta and Saskatchewan. Instead, the Harper Cons are proposing a per capita distribution and a pre-emptive promise to Quebec that is tied to elections, in Quebec and federally.

Quebec is the place Harper chose to announce a potential (subject to budget approval) funding for reduction of air pollution and GHG emissions. Quebec has to amongst the least offensive place when it comes to GHG emissions. They have Quebec Hydro and are very clean comparatively.

Politics is trumping sound policy and effective programming in this initiative so far. This is more about a back door delivery of “fiscal imbalance funds” and a political message to Quebec. Harper’s speech is tribute to “self” and a menu of the Cons concessions to Quebec in the past year, none of which I begrudge. Think UNESCO voice for Quebec, big cash into the 400 anniversary of Quebec City, and bridges, highways, water systems and airport expansions are the items Harper mentions in his “eco-Trust-me” speech.

The speech pays a nod to the different “energy profile” of each province and the different priorities they have. He notes the “solutions have to be customized” and that GHG “emissions have to be mandatory across the country.”

This all this distinctiveness in these provincial energy profiles, priorities and need for “customized solutions” it is hard to see the logic behind a per capita fund distribution. Unless the logic is to favour Quebec and Ontario because it is about where the votes are in puruste of a majority and as for the environment, well not so much.

All this happens at the expense of Alberta and Saskatchewan – yet again! I am sure Prime Minister Harper has heard the expression "The West Wants In?" Well a new version is emerging under the Harper government. "Why Are You Leaving the West Out?"

Harper is quickly becoming the closest thing we have seen to a centralizing Prime Minister since the reigns of Chr├ętien and Trudeau. Strange isn't is, what power will do to some people, and what they will do to retain it.