Martin to make education announcement (again)

Continuing his trend to encroach upon provincial jurisdiction, Paul Martin will announce later on today that the Liberals are planning to unload over $7 billion on education initiatives.

CTV has the report:

Thousands of low-income students would get virtually free university and college educations under a multibillion-dollar plan to be unveiled Thursday by Prime Minister Paul Martin, The Canadian Press has learned.

The plan, aimed at ensuring Canada will be able to compete with emerging economic superpowers like China and India, includes the promise of at least $2.75 billion in new post-secondary tuition assistance.

Sources said every student, regardless of income, would get some new financial help to defray tuition fees, but low-income students would be the biggest beneficiaries of the new plan, receiving up to $3,000 a year for four years.

As well, Martin is expected to announce an additional $1 billion to help universities and colleges build new infrastructure.

And he is expected to simultaneously unveil a workplace skills strategy, promising to pump $3.5 billion into programs aimed at boosting apprenticeships, skills development and literacy, as well as encouraging increased participation in the workforce by aboriginals, immigrants and the disabled.

First impression? The Liberals are buying votes in a time of crisis.

However, on closer inspection, doesn’t the Liberal plan sound familiar?

Oct 06, 2004

In Tuesday’s Speech from the Throne, Prime Minister Paul Martin failed to make mention of a key election promise, according to the Canadian Federation of Students and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec. During a nationally-televised federal election forum in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Martin said that he wanted to allocate $8 billion to post-secondary education.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Prime Minister chose not follow through on an election promise,” said George Soule, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, “The Prime Minister is wrong if he thinks that students have forgotten about a $8 billion promise he made on June 4, 2004.”

The same type of promise was made by Paul Martin in the 2004 campaign and it certainly sounds like something that the NDP would have supported in the so-called “NDP budget” last spring. Did you say $8 billion for education, Mr. Martin? That certainly trumps the $4.6 Billion that Buzz Hargrove negotiated for the NDP’s participation in propping up a corrupt Liberal government.

However, if we we neglect to take the promise at actual value ($0) and focus on the votes that could be bought with a promise to spend $7 billion on education, it may well be a waste of phoney money for the Liberals.

Apparently, the Liberal war room leaked the announcement early thus negating any purpose for reporters to follow the Martin campaign at a rate of $1500 per day. CTV Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife was livid:

“When we arrived in Calgary tonight, all our BlackBerries went off, and all the journalists who are paying $10,000 a week were furious … Scott Reid had to come to the back of the plane and he got a tongue-lashing from the journalists who wondered why we’re covering this campaign when we could sit in Ottawa and wait for the leaks to come out … This is really quite a serious setback for the Liberals because a) it shows they can’t run a campaign properly, and secondly, it shows a huge announcement, a big, important announcement on education that the Prime Minister was going to use has been upstaged by a leak from the Liberals.”

Will media outrage overshadow Martin’s announcement? Is it this type of behaviour from the Liberal campaign that is turning media favour to benefit the Conservatives?

Remember that so-called “damning” Harper speech from 1997 that was supposed to dog the Conservative leader throughout the campaign? It immediately lost its legs when it was revealed that the “anonymous non-partisan source” got his marching orders from the Liberal war-room. This too before the “non-partisan anonymous source” helped Martin prepare for the debates in Vancouver last month. That incident, many media observers will note, represented a turning point for the Liberal party regarding media credibility (and sympathy).

It has yet to be seen whether or not reporters will call the Liberals on their phoney $7 billion education announcement later today.

If Bob Fife’s mood is any indication, they probably will.