Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver has announced his budget, one clearly designed to win this year’s election rather than setting the economy on a sustainable growth path, aimed at distributing benefits mostly to sections of the population whose votes appear to be Prime Stephen Harper’s main target. The effort is so brazen that, responding to the criticism regarding the big revenue hole the heightened Tax Free Saving Account contributions threshold will create in the future, Oliver did not see any problem in confessing that he was kicking the can down the road. “It is a problem to be solved by Stephen Harper’s daughter,” he said. Whether he had in the back of his mind a suggestion of a Harper political dynasty ruling Canada forever is a separate discussion, of course.
Mr. Harper’s seemingly growing desperation to win this year’s election is showing more and more, witness the latest attempts to lure foreign leaders into his election campaign. We recently had India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting the country’s big population centres, predictably urging the leaders of the Indian communities behind closed doors to support Harper. Soon we will have a visit by another foreign dignitary, the President of the Philippines Benigno Aquino III, who is likely to do the same with the Filipino communities around the country, probably touching down in Alberta as well.
Earlier, we had the masterstroke from the federal government in sending Canadian soldiers to Ukraine, where there have been no recent reports of any escalation of violence between the Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian military. The move appeared to be designed to kill two birds with one stone: Ramp up the nationalistic hysteria a little bit more while also pleasing the Ukrainian communities in Canada that also have a sizeable vote potential.
In the province, the election campaign is getting hotter and hotter thanks to the gaffes and missteps by Jim Prentice and his government.
Prentice himself took a step back in regard to his recently announced budget by reversing his decision to tax charitable donations, hardly attributable to a leader who knows what he is doing. But his Education Minister Gordon Banks undersigned an even bigger blunder by accusing the province’s school boards of acting like banks. He probably failed to assess that, unlike politicians thinking of the electorate only during campaign periods, school boards carry a much more important responsibility towards the children of the communities they operate in. In realization of that responsibility, school boards act cautiously and carefully in making plans for the immediate and long term future and, accordingly, they save money for contingencies. But that money is not for the provincial government to waste, it is for the children of the people of this province.
Some polls suggest that people are now waking up to the fact that the past 40 or so years of PC governments have done much less than what could have been done with the resources of this province. Yet, there are many individuals who say that Alberta is still the best province to live in Canada, and there may be some truth to that.
But it is important to understand that it is not because of, but rather despite the PC governments, particularly of the last ten years, that Alberta is still in a good position as compared to other provinces, and it is only thanks to the generosity of Mother Nature in endowing this land with so rich resources.
Be it federal or provincial, complacency should be the last thing guiding the behaviour of the electorate in this year’s votes, because the stakes in both cases are much higher this time.