Fodder for the blogger

Quite possibly the worst thing to do to a blogger is lock him up in a car for 15 hours. You see, he (me) will seek out all possible news programming and then end up with a mind full of hundreds of potential blog items. And to make things worse, when he (me) gets home and browses through the papers and magazines, again copious amounts of potential blog content.

However, being a busy guy and not wanting to bore readers with a seven volume version, you get the Cliff Notes version of a few of the things that caught my eye in recent days.

Iraq Hostages “released” uh, “rescued”.
You have got to hand it to the CBC. I was in the car when that story first broke and every reference was to the ‘release’ of the hostages – this despite the fact they were were talking about military forces and the ‘brave’ men and women, etc. But within an hour or so of the so-called ‘release’ of the hostages, CBC journalists were sliding in the word ‘rescue’ and by the end of my 7.5 hours in the car (one way to Quebec City) there was no mention of ‘release’ and the word ‘rescue’ was pervasive.

Why? Is it because the Christian Peacekeepers originially called it a ‘release’ of the hostages? That doesn’t make any sense but it’s neat.

Harper – the $6 million man.
It is not hard to please Monctonians these days – or at least Al Hogan. To read his story on the potential federal funding for a new stadium – it’s contingent on winning a games bid – you would think that all of New Brunswick’s problems were solved. Ditto for the 10 year, $400 million highway announcement. That’s $40 million a year, folks. There was a time when governments announced $1 billion highway deals for one stretch of highway. Now we have 10 years worth of funding announced by two minority governments that may not last 12 months. You gotta love politics, folks.

Pot, kettle, black and such.
But the real fun was the “We Say” in Saturday’s Times & Transcript where Al Hogan gave the insurance industry a major tongue lashing for its anticompetitive behaviour. Shame on them, says Al. Shawn Graham’s best platform component, says he. Buddy Bernard better reconsider, threatens he, or get a gentle spanking on the pages of the We Say.

I can’t be the only person in New Brunswick to recognize the searing irony of Al Hogan on this one. Here is he, a principal cog in the wheel of the most anti-competitive industry in probably all of North America – that being the English print media in New Brunswick – lecturing another industry about anti-competitive behaviours. I realize there are fundamental differences between these industries but I still have to laugh out loud when I read this stuff. But I gain some comfort when I dialog with others in small town America. It seems that it is quite common to have such buffoonery in small town, single newspaper towns. It still remains sad, however; as this paper could be such a force for positive change in our little province….

The Calgary boom.
It is commonplace for MacLean’s magazine to hype up the Alberta boom – why not – it’s a good story. And, as usual, the readers outside Alberta are told not to envy Alberta – Alberta’s success is Canada’s success, etc. Then they fill the pages will stories of avarice, and even more concerning – the fact that Alberta is skyrocketing ahead of the rest of Canada for its public education and other public institutions – because of all the new money, no less.

The Ontario utlimatum on the fiscal imbalance.
But the most interesting media item of all, for me, was the interview on CBC’s The House on Saturday with Ontario’s Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. She had all the numbers on the imbalance. $23 billion more in than out. Billions more EI in than out. Education. Health care. On and on. Then the finale. She states: “We will not sit idly by and let Ontario become a have not province!” This caught the interviewer a little off guard. He asked a lame final question and terminated the interview. But I was left thinking what does that mean? It has become clear to me that virtually all Ontario politicians and the majority of thinkers (academics, pundits, etc.) have trained their sights clearly on this imbalance thing – blaming it, in large part, for Ontario’s economic woes. I knew this would happen. It was inevitable. When the Harris government first started saying that it couldn’t properly fund education because of all the money it was giving to the poor provinces (or something to that effect), I knew it would be only a matter of time.

To be sure, they won’t cut Atlantic Canada off – at least not short term. But a fundamental ideological shift is working its way into the machinery of government and no matter of howls from Bernard Lord about our ‘Constitutional’ right to more money will amount to much in this new reality.

Regardless of who is in power in Ottawa, you can expect a slow but deliberate shift out of propping up poorer provinces. It will take 10 years, maybe more (or a big recession) for it to become obvious to all but it will come.

The best way to buffer New Brunswick from such a mindshift in federal politics would be to start now (or in say 1987) an aggressive economic development program which over time will lead to less reliance on tax dollars collected in Ontario. As I have said many times before this would even be in the best interests of Ontario. If all four Atlantic provinces became ‘have’ provinces and the aboriginal communities in Canada become mostly self-sufficient, Ontario would be able to keep virtually all of its $23 billion.

So how about a new deal. Money and support to revitalize Atlantic Canada and a firm commitment to reduce, over time folks (20-30 years), our tax grab of Ontarioians’ pocket books.