Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bob Rae Makes an Impassioned Speech to Parliament and Every Word is True

This government is riding high in the polls right now, so they want an election. However, they can't make it look like they want an election, so they do what they do best. LIE!

With scandals brewing over the way they have been handling the stimulus money, which includes giving money to their freind's private Christian school (not the first time for Flaherty), and the 'In and Out' finally hitting the courts, they need to get it out of the way.

John Ivison: Battle of the pork-barrel all stars
September 24, 2009

Pork-barreling in Canadian politics is hardly new. The task of the politician is to climb the tree to shake down the acorns to the pigs below, conceded Sir John A. Macdonald in a moment of, presumably drunken, sincerity.

Now we have Gordon Landon, regional councillor for the Town of Markham and the nominated Conservative candidate in the Ontario riding of Markham-Unionville.

In what will likely prove to be a career-limiting move, he admitted on live television that the reason his riding has not received federal funding for a medical testing centre is that the Member of Parliament is a Liberal.

It was against this background that Michael Ignatieff staged a press conference to accuse the government of breaching the public trust by funneling the bulk of the federal stimulus cash for infrastructure into Conservative ridings. After months of underperforming, the Liberal leader was finally out standing in a field - to be precise, a soya-bean field that would, he said, have been turned into a park, if stimulus money had flowed expeditiously.

Standing next to him in his shirt-sleeves, apparently rehabilitated in his leader's eyes after gifting the party St├ęphane Dion, was former leadership candidate, Gerard Kennedy.

On Mr, Kennedy's initiative, the Grits contacted 946 of 1697 projects funded by the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund and found that only 12% were underway, in contrast to the government's claim that shovels are in the ground on 75%.

The reason for the delay, the Liberals said, was that the Harper government wanted to exert political control over the selection of projects.

Rather than flow half the infrastructure funds directly to municipalities using the Gas Tax Transfer, as the Liberals claimed they would have done, the government created a new program that resulted in a four month delay but allowed all projects to be vetted by the Harper government.

In a thorough, and one has to say convincing, report, Mr. Kennedy suggested that money was directed more often than not to Conservative ridings. In Ontario, Conservatives constituencies received, on average, 15% more dollars than Liberal ridings.

Four of the top 10 allocations for Ontario were given to ridings represented by Conservative Cabinet ministers and a fifth to the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary. They received two to three times the average funding, despite often having unemployment rates around half the provincial average. The pattern was the same in British Columbia, the report said.

"There is a systemic bias toward Conservative ridings," charged Mr. Ignatieff. "Canadians don't want political games played with infrastructure money, they want it to benefit all Canadians."

Nobody should be particularly shocked by any of this - it was ever thus, particularly under previous Liberal regimes. Yet for Mr. Ignatieff, it's a God-send. The Liberal leader has been flailing around like a punch-drunk boxer for months but if this line of inquiry has legs, it could be the Conservatives who find themselves kissing the canvas. (It's the National Post. They hate Liberals, but the fact that Iverson may actually be finding fault with the Reform-Conservatives is news worthy)

Such was the government's concern, it sent out its best bare-knuckle brawler, Transport Minister, John Baird, a man who has been known to turn a blind eye to the Marquess of Queensberry's rules.

The charges are "downright opportunistic","shameful" and "just plain wrong", he said, without getting into specifics.

"If the Liberals are concerned about the infrastructure projects moving forward and where they are located, they should talk to the provinces and municipalities who approved each and every one of these and agreed with us," he said. "In Ontario, every single grant we make under the ISF is done in partnership with Dalton McGuinty. You can accuse Dalton McGuinty of many things [but] conspiring with Stephen Harper to reward Conservative MPs and help Stephen Harper get re-elected, I would suggest is not one of them."

Of course, he's right. But there's one suspects that closer inspection of the infrastructure spending will unearth that as many provincial Liberal Cabinet ministers benefited from taxpayer largesse as federal Conservatives. It all conjurs up mental images of Tarantino-eque heist movie, where "Nice-Guy" John Baird and his provincial equivalent, George "Mr. Pink" Smitherman, meet to divvy up the loot.

The contention that the provincial Liberals are accessories does not invalidate Mr. Kennedy's point that this is old-style pork-barrel politics. The Conservatives have spent the past year criss-crossing the country, indulging in what Mr. Kennedy called Announce-A-Rama at our expense. My Canwest colleague David Akin has calculated that the government has made 1770 Economic Action Plan announcements since last year's election, making $71-billion in funding commitments.

You don't have to be as cynical as me to imagine that much of this money ended up in Conservative ridings too.

It is early days for evidence of dubious spending - although there is already uproar in Collingwood, Ont., over the decision by the federal and provincial governments to allocate $523,000 to a private school to build a soccer field for its 156 students. All they need now is a hint of genuine sleaze and the Liberals will have their own Three Graces with which to attack the Conservative government - waste, mismanagement and corruption.

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