Tuesday, October 17, 2006

News roundup

I haven't done one of these in a while but there were a couple of interesting piecs in the papers today I wanted to comment on.

HST heating rebate

All of the dailies are reporting that Finance Minister Victor Boudreau is saying that the HST rebate program is under review and may or may not proceed. He says his intention is to proceed but they are not sure they will need to see the results of the audit. Boudreau is quoted as saying "the previous government had not done what needed to be done to be able to meet (the) deadline". I am very curious about this and am hoping that more details will come out over the next few days.

Some may recall that back when this program was announced there were no details and, two months after it was announced, then Finance Minister Jeannot Volpe told people to keep their heating bills because they might need them. The whole program seems to have been dreamed up when the Tories wanted a popular budget to run on should their government have fallen in April.

The very same Jeannot Volpe and his master Bernard Lord were harping on the Liberals for potentially scrapping the program.

Volpe: They seem to be very good at spending the money. Now I'm waiting for them to say where they will get that money. Will they cut the HST rebate? Will they increase taxes? If they are ready to start spending money, they have to be ready to make some decisions.

Lord: First of all, they got less votes. More people voted to keep the HST rebate and I think if they would have been clear with the public of New Brunswick that they were considering canceling the HST rebate then we would have had even more votes. The real issue for the Liberals is not doing audits about the past, it's trying to figure out how they're going to pay for their expensive promises and obviously they don't know.
The Liberals have not said they are scrapping the program, they are figuring out if it is even possible to make it work, something the Tories should have done when they were in power. I fully expect that the Liberals will make this program work and continue forward with it, as they promised. If they don't, they'll catch hell from yours truly.

As for Lord's remarks, evidentally the defeat didn't give him and humility. I guess we are never going to hear the end of the popular vote thing. Ever. But his comment about audits is very interesting considering that he conducted an external audit in 1999 and so did his hero Richard Hatfield in 1970. If it is good for the goose, it is good for the gander.

Lord to Paris?

I am not too sure about this rumour but it got a lot of print today because the incumbent Ambassador to France was in Moncton yesterday and got scrumed about it.

I don't really see Harper appointing Lord as Ambassador to France and, if he offered it, I don't see Lord accepting. It isn't a good move for either of them.

From Harper's perspective, if he thinks Lord is an asset, he'll want him in his cabinet and encourage him to run in the next election. If Harper thinks Lord is a threat, he'll strategically realize that there really isn't a federal seat Lord could win and encourage him to run and fall on his sword.

From Lord's perspective, if he wants to move into federal politics this may give him some foreign affairs experience to round out his resume but it also takes him out of the country for at least a few years and doesn't, unlike McKenna's gig in Washington, give him a lot of profile. Moreover, Lord has said his wife and family are happy in Fredericton and despite anything negative you may have to say about Lord, he is a family man and I suspect that he'd prefer to keep them comfortable in Fredericton, something he could do either running federally or even by doing some Canadian corporate gigs basing himself out of Fredericton and doing some travel.

Shawn Graham on equalization

Graham is following Lord's principled policy on equalization. In that all resource revenues should be included. It drives me crazy to hear that talk about the "clawback" on revenues in Newfoundland. It is not a clawback!

This is how it works (very over simplified version, but the gist is there). If the national average revenue for a province of your size is X dollars, and your province makes Y dollars and Y is less than X then you get the difference between X and Y.

So lets say X is $5 billion and the revenues of Newfoundland are $4 billion. Newfoundland would receive $1 billion in equalization. Now, if Newfoundland has a really good oil year, and their revenue is $4.5 billion, then they are only going to get $500,000. They are arguing that oil revenue should not be included so they would still get a total of $5.5 billion while other provinces still get only $5 billion. In what universe is this fair?

Graham names deputy speakers

Graham named widely-expected-to-be-Speaker Gene McGinley and Campbellton MLA Roy Boudreau as Deputy Speakers. This is something that would not usually happen until the legislature comes into session.

I am assuming that Malley has resigned now with a handsome severence package, which the paper says was agreed to though they cannot confirm or deny whether or not the resignation has actually taken place, and that this will allow McGinley to act as Speaker until he is elected? Not sure but this seems to make sense as McGinley has indicated he is running for Speaker in today's papers and it would make no sense to appoint someone as Deputy Speaker who is going to run for Speaker and then never actually serve as Deputy Speaker requiring you to appoint a replacement Deputy Speaker.

The problem however is whether or not this is even possible?

According to the Standing Rules of the Legislature: "12. Within the first five days of the first session of each House, or whenever a vacancy occurs, the House shall elect two Deputy Speakers from among its members." And the Legislative Assembly Act does not provide any provision for the appointment of Deputy Speakers when the House is not in session.

Seems fishy.


Anonymous said...

When Lord was premier he lived in 1990's and blamed every failing of his on the previous Liberal government. He also never gave up living in 1999. One of these days he is going to wake up and realize that he has been booted out.

Paris stint? Doubt it. I do not think there is any love lost between Harper and Lord. Harper will love to see Lord fall on his own sword and that is about it.

Brent said...

I've got a column and a blog posting on the issue of the home heating rebate coming out on Friday, but for now I'll say this:

The Liberals did not have the issue in their platform, and would have been quite free to cancel the rebate had they not "inadvertently" put up a test ad on the issue on their Web site during the campaign.

When pressed about the error and what it really meant about the Liberals' own plans for home energy tax relief, a staffer confirmed that the Lord rebate would be maintained. Their leader never refuted that comment. Had he refuted it, it would have exploded in the campaign, and I bet he would not be premier today.

Now, it's a promise, a $55 million promise made by Bernard Lord, that Shawn Graham is obligated to keep.

Spinks said...

Yeah at least for this Fall the Liberals pretty much have to honour it. People have been saving their receipts. They'll be seriously p-o'ed if the Libs were to cancel it (unless they offer something similar in return).

Anonymous said...

Bernard Lord running for federal politics? That would mean he'd have to win an election to get there. Well, I guess Pictou held their noses and voted for Peter MacKay, so there's hope for Bernard Lord!