George Smitherman dismisses federal Liberals on claims of Tory infrastructure skew

A little birdie told me that George Smitherman, Ontario’s infrastructure minister, just dismissed federal Liberal claims that infrastructure dollars are disproportionately going to Tory ridings in Ontario. He told reporters, “you can slice and dice the numbers any way you want” and he went on to emphasize that the programs are balanced.

UDPATE: Here’s the video from Citytv.

Citytv:

“The [federal Liberals] draw conclusions based on the analysis that they’ve done,” deputy premier George Smitherman countered Thursday outside Queen’s Park.

But, he continued, they only looked at the Recreational Infrastructure Canada (Rinc) program. While that would indicate that Conservative ridings received more cash than Liberal holdings, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Rinc program was open to not-for-profits and municipalities, he explained.

“So the fact that there are 450 municipalities, many of them small, meant that there were more requests in the mix for smaller communities.

“I think that’s why you see it’s a little more distributed towards rural Ontario and by coincidence, that happens to be where Conservatives represent the ridings.”

Toronto scored big when other initiatives were considered, Smitherman argued.

“The knowledge infrastructure program, which is for post-secondary education, you’ll see that Toronto actually comes out with a higher degree of investment than its proportion of population…I’m pretty confident that there’s going to be a very equitable regional distribution once we’ve completed the allocation of all those dollars.”

Dion was an unexpected gift, but Ignatieff was an original Tory prospect

During the Liberal convention in December of 2006, Bob Rae was seen by Conservative strategists as the most fearful prospect that the Liberals had on offer to their delegates. Most messaging that came from the Conservative camp during this time was against Rae and the party did its best to suggest to Liberal delegates that he would deliver economic disaster to Canada like he did for Ontario. The Tories did their best political maneuvering to spike Rae’s bid because focus testing showed that enough time had passed between the sour days of Bob Rae the NDP Premier and the “give-him-a-chance” Bob Rae Liberal leadership candidate. Dedicated Ontario political watchers would remember tough economic times under Rae but apparently the modern dynamic had changed for the typical voter. “He has the chance to be a Canadian Bill Clinton” was how I heard the smooth talking and charming candidate described by a particularly concerned senior Conservative.

Yet, times have changed again and the economic recession is now centre-stage and it doesn’t take a surplus of political sense to acknowledge that a Rae leadership win would have been trouble for the Liberals in the 2006 leadership race, and that in 2009 — if it had occurred. During the 2006 race, as the front-runner, the Conservatives had already constructed a thorough game plan against Ignatieff and believe they had a workable strategy against the American-tenured academic should he become leader of Canada’s natural ruling party. “Ignatieff is awkward and tends to put his foot in his mouth a lot” was the consensus among senior Tory partisans. My sense was that during the 2006 leadership race, while Conservatives were concerned about Rae, they were less so about Ignatieff. And then Dion happened and he became a surprise, a wonderful gift and an unexpected best case scenario for the Conservatives and their Prime Minister.

Today, Michael Ignatieff is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and he’s starting to show strong gaffe potential, a lack of clear policy direction and a generally aloof attitude towards the Canadian electorate. In fairness, I’d say that Ignatieff is much more calm and calculated that his hapless predecessor and instead, we find him focused on the long game. This should help Liberal prospects. Yet, Ignatieff is failing along the predicted lines of the original Conservative assessment. Yesterday, in Cambridge, the good professor mused that “we will have to raise taxes”. As a front-runner-turned-crowned-leader of the Liberal Party, Ignatieff never needed to wedge and never needed to segment in order to differentiate his campaign. It is unclear as to why in a trajectory largely devoid of policy pronouncements that of the rare policy musings he is making, he is offering ideas that are generally seen as unpopular. For example, in an interview with CityTV’s Richard Madan last December, the Liberal leader mused that he’s open to reversing the Conservative’s 2% GST cut.

Few election campaigns have seen bold policy stands by leaders fail so spectacularly. Despite this, we recently saw how the idea of funding non-Catholic faith-based religious schools sunk the PC Party’s prospects during the last Ontario election and for the Liberal Party of Canada, the carbon tax was a federal electoral disaster in 2008. Though Mr. Dion will be scapegoated with the carbon tax and conveniently shelved away, the Liberals will be considering the policy again at their next convention. Though in truth, Mr. Ignatieff was the original proponent of the tax.

Now it seems that Mr. Ignatieff is against such a tax but how can we be so sure given his reversal on this policy that his membership is now proposing? For Mr. Ignatieff, whether we’re taxed on carbon, income, or our purchases, what he’s made clear is that under his leadership our taxes would go up. Though cliché, this paraphrased statement holds:

“A carbon tax if necessary, but not necessarily a carbon tax.”

or rather, “a tax is necessary, but not necessarily a carbon tax.”

Mr. Rae would have been a wonderful leader for the Conservatives to oppose, unelectable as he would have been though disastrous for Canadians should have assumed residency at 24 Sussex Drive. Mr. Dion would have raised our taxes with a carbon tax. With Mr. Ignatieff, we know that while times are tough, he’d heap on increased government burden. At least with Mr. Dion, we would have known where it was coming from and how to brace ourselves. Terrible Liberal fiscal policy makes for good Conservative electoral prospects. Terrible and ambiguous Liberal fiscal policy makes for great Conservative electoral prospects.

Conservatives are looking forward to a Liberal party led by the professor on loan from Massachusetts. They’re anticipating the Canadian reaction of watching Mr. Ignatieff debate himself on how to best raise our taxes.

Bombshell: PM Ignatieff may hike the GST in the future

In a one-on-one interview today with Citynews’ Richard Madan, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said that he won’t take a GST hike off the table in dealing with the economic crisis.

Madan: “On the tax side, is it time to boost up the GST to its former levels of 6%? Do we need to that? Do you support raising the GST?”

Ignatieff: “I won’t be drawn at the moment where Canadian taxpayers and consumers are struggling with their bills, jacking up GST doesn’t sound to me like the greatest idea. But, let me be clear here: If we are in a deep deficit in year 3 or 4 you can’t exclude tax increases to get us out. Canadians understand how bad deficits are. So I’m not going to take a GST hike off the table… later, I just think it would be a bad idea now, in the recession.”

Richard Madan has the video.

Dion will implement carbon tax even if there’s a recession

After a joint address to the Empire Club and Canadian Club yesterday, Stephane Dion faced reporters. The exchange between Richard Madan from City and Dion was interesting.

MADAN (Voiceover): But Dion has shifted his own tune lately, suggesting that Canada may be headed into recession. And he only mentioned his controversial Green Shift plan just once at the end of his speech.

MADAN (to Dion): You mentioned “recession” in your speech. So if indeed Canada does hit a recession will you delay implementing your carbon tax?

DION: First, it’s not that. It’s the Green Shift.

MADAN: No, I know. But the question is: if things get worse, will you delay implementing a carbon tax, Green Shift, whatever you want to call it? Will you delay it?

DION: It’s not carbon tax, it’s a Green Shift. It’s to put a cost…

MADAN (interupts): Will you delay it?

DION: No, because it’ll be good for the economy.

Did you get that? If Canada falls into recession, Dion believes his “don’t call it a carbon tax” Green Shift will be just want Canada needs to get out of the storm.

Recently, Maclean’s editor Andrew Coyne has stated that he believes that there may be something to it when Harper complains that Canada’s opposition is “cheering for a recession”.

The Opposition parties have gone mad with attacks explaining that Mr. Harper doesn’t care about the economy because he’s not panicking. The opposition will be upset to learn that the World Economic Forum has declared Canada’s banking system the most stable in the world.

There have been cries of dissent from Dion’s own ranks on the Green Shift and it’s timetable for implementation. Liberal candidate Shawn Murphy told the Charlottetown Guardian on September 12th, “This winter, I don’t think you’re going to see the green shift even if the Liberals got elected.” Former Minister of Revenue John McCallum conceded about Dion’s carbon tax, “I cannot say to you that no Canadian will be unharmed by this… it’s not going to be totally painless for every human being”.

Even former NDP Ontario Premier Bob Rae is
sounding more lucid on the economy as he suggested yesterday that the implementation of the carbon tax should be delayed.

There’s an old saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. While Mr. Dion’s plan aims to address environmental concerns with his plan, the ballot question will ask who is the best manager of the economy as crises become a daily occurrence in foreign markets. Canada has a sound economic position — indeed, the fundamentals are strong — and while members of his own team have second thoughts about his carbon tax, Mr. Dion is ready to add new untested variables to the economic equation in a time that calls for the kind of stability that comes from an economist Prime Minister rather than untested tax theory from a man who is not.

Announcing Google Power Readers Canada

I pleased to announce today, the launch of a new way of connecting with Canada’s political party leaders and the journalists that are covering the election campaign.

I’ve been working with Google over the past couple of months on an innovative project that provides a peek into the reading material of those seeking the Prime Minister’s Office the articles that they’d like to share with you, the voter.

Late last night, our site went live and gained some very valuable real estate on the homepage of Google Canada at google.ca.

Google Power Readers Canada is the product of our work. I was able to gather Stephen Harper, Stephane Dion, Jack Layton and Elizabeth May together to share articles that interest them and of course, articles they figure will interest (or should I say) entice you to vote for their candidates.

Also featured within the project are some of Canada’s top reporters that are covering the day-to-day action of the campaign. Perhaps, this will allow the “reporter’s notebook” to evolve in the way that reporters gather information and provide raw material for their readers to give them insight on the information gathering process.

You can check in what Jack Layton is reading and sharing with Google Reader, you can get a glimpse into Stephen Harper and Elizabeth May’s interests or find out what sites Peter Mansbridge frequents as he goes through his day. For example, we know that the Prime Minister is an avid hockey fan. From his shared items page we can see that the Mr. Harper is watching how the Leafs new and young talent may shape their upcoming season. The Prime Minister shares an article the Toronto Star about the Leaf’s training camp. Stephane Dion maintains his message and shows us more of his personality by linking to a Fishing Magazine in his profile. Elizabeth May has shared a Nova Scotia article from the Chronicle Herald on her platform release.

Check out Google Power Readers Canada and let me know what you think. Sign up for Google Reader yourself and share some articles with other Canadians and participate in the social media conversation for this 2008 general election. If you’re also posting your ideas, maybe Jack Layton or Stephen Harper or Kady O’Malley will share your blog post or article. I should thank the party leader’s and the journalists for taking a chance on my pitch for this project. I’m looking forward to seeing what they have to offer to Google users. This election is showing the full integration of new media within political campaigns. Google is reflecting this with Google Power Readers.