Thursday, December 18, 2008

McParland: Meet Stephen Harper, easy going pushover

This is from the National Post.
What this shows is that Harper wants to buy off the Liberals so that he doesn't lose power. It is all about power. Even the great gift of seats to Ontario is part of a power play since the Conservatives hope to make further inroads in Ontario especially if some of the seats are rural or suburban. It may be that he will lose even more in Quebec however.

Kelly McParland: Meet Stephen Harper, easy-going pushover
Posted: December 17, 2008, 5:00 PM by Kelly McParland
Sometime in the week or so since Governor General Michaelle Jean gave his government a second chance, Stephen Harper appears to have bumped into the Ghost of Christmas Past. Suddenly the Prime Minister has seen the error of his ways. Stephen Harper the partisan grump has transformed himself into Stephen Harper, Everyone’s Pal, handing out stimulus, patching up old quarrels, inviting his opponents in for a friendly chat.The latest proof of this remarkable rebirth was offered Wednesday by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who revealed that the Prime Minister had agreed during a recent chat to allot the province an extra 21 seats in the House of Commons, more than double the number he had promised a year ago when plans were first revealed to expand the House to reflect changes in population.Under the original plan, 22 new seats were to be added, taking the House to 330 seats. Only 10 would go to Ontario, though, leaving it still under-represented compared to other provinces. Mr. McGuinty began complaining almost immediately, questioning why only Ontario was being short-changed, prompting a nasty spat in which Tory House Leader Peter Van Loan called Mr. McGuinty “the small man of Confederation.”All that appears to be forgotten now. In a year-end news conference, the Ontario premier said he raised the issue again last week in a meeting with Mr. Harper, “and I think we fixed it.”“He made the traditional argument, which is ‘look, you’re better off than you were before,’” McGuinty said, recounting the conversation. “And I said yeah, that’s true but that’s not the point. The point is we should be working toward fairness and over time we would have continued to fall behind.”And Mr. Harper, apparently agreed. So now Ontario will get 21 new seats instead of 10, giving it 127 overall. Easy huh? At the same meeting, recall, Mr. Harper agreed to a bailout package for Ontario’s auto industry, almost certainly pushing the federal budget into deficit. Oh well, deficits, who cares? The new Mr. Harper is just happy to oblige.On Tuesday Jim Flaherty, Mr. Harper’s finance minister, indicated auto workers wouldn’t be alone in receiving federal aid, suggesting the forestry industry will also be on the list. Mr. Flaherty used to take delight in taunting Mr. McGuinty, telling people, for example, that Ontario was a lousy place to invest. Mr. Flaherty takes his cues from Mr. Harper, though, and these days it’s all co-operation and harmony up on Parliament Hill. Mr. Flaherty didn’t even erupt when the federal Liberals sent Scott Brison around with a list of demands to be met before the Liberals would share their thoughts on potential stimulus plans. The Liberal list all but accused the government of lying about the country’s economy, yet Mr. Brison emerged to say the meeting was “very constructive and businesslike.”
The reason for the outbreak of collegiality is no mystery. Mr. Harper got just six weeks out of Ms. Jean, during which he has to construct a budget that will attract enough votes -- or convince enough Liberals to conveniently stay away -- to let his government survive past January. He needs to make a show of cooperation, stuff the budget full of goodies, and undermine the opposition’s ability to justify opposing it. It can’t hurt to build a little goodwill along the way; one thing that must have become apparent to Mr. Harper recently is that he has precious little goodwill to call on when he needs it. Having thoroughly ticked off much of Quebec by demonizing the Bloc Quebecois -- and by extension anyone who voted for it -- during the coalition confrontation, he may feel Ontario is a good place to start making amends.
National Post -->

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