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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Pile of Potash

Did the Prime Minister cave to political pressure? Is January cold in Saskatchewan?

Sask. Party sources insist Wall never made a political argument to Harper nor did the party do polling on the issue. However, others did. Sources say PotashCorp did conduct a private poll showing between four and six Saskatchewan Conservative MPs would lose their seats in the next election if Ottawa did approve the takeover bid.

It is believed this information was relayed to the MPs, who in turn relayed it to the Prime Minister's Office in the days leading up to that Nov. 3 announcement. This became one of two key elements that convinced the minority Conservative government to change its mind.

Well, this is certainly a change for the Harper Tories. After years of betraying their principles to appease Quebec, they have now betrayed their principles to appease Westerners. Progress in the age old art of Canadian pork-barrell politics. Given enough time Harperites might even start sucking up to voters in Manitoba. Something to look forward to. I hear the Golden Boy needs some repair work done.

Whereas the American Senate acts as a sort of house of inter-regional horse trading, our Senate is a resting home for superannuated hacks. At the time of Confederation, it was believed that the the superannuated hacks would be harder to bribe, or otherwise manipulate, than the House of Commons hacks, who would still be in their prime grasping years. Having the old crooks keeping a watch on the younger and friskier crooks.

This left the job of inter-regional bribery - dignified in modern political discourse under the euphemisms of "transfer payments" and "national unity" - to the federal cabinet. The Prime Minister's role being that of Pork-Master-in-Chief. In other countries, the first job of the head of the national government is to defend the country from enemies foreign and domestic. Canada has no enemies, at least not our own enemies.

No one hates Canada for being Canada, they hate Canada for being friends with the Americans or the British. Since Wolfe sent Montcalm's boys packing, the big foreign policy decisions have been made in London, and later Washington. This left the Prime Minister free to focus on more important tasks, like reviewing the financing arrangements for golf courses in his own riding. The sort of stuff that really matters in a country with few real problems, and all of those largely self-inflicted e.g. Quebec nationalism, Medicare.

Roasting the Prime Minister for avoiding a turf war with Regina - after having badly lost a turf war to Danny "Chavez" Williams out East - seems a bit unfair. Canadians might say they want strong, principled and honest government, but they keep voting for whomever might give them the biggest cut of the government pie. Taxes are too high, cry the seniors. But don't even think of cutting CPP. The country is going bankrupt, cry the Bay Street types. But keep running corporate welfare schemes like the BDC and EDC. Everyone wants freedom, but only for themselves, and at everyone else's expense.

Once upon a time, many moons ago, Canadians did elect a man of integrity to the highest office in the land, Alexander Mackenzie. He replaced John A Macdonald, who had been caught red-handed during the Pacific Scandal. Mackenzie brought clean and efficient government to Ottawa. Naturally enough, he lasted only one term. Replaced, in turn, by Sir John A himself.

Sure, Macdonald had accepted hundred of thousands of dollars (in the money of the time) in campaign contributions from Hugh Allan, who had just been awarded the transcontinental railroad contract. Sure, Allan was in bed with American investors, though John A had promised an all Canadian (or British) road to the Pacific. But voters - even Victorian ones - have always wanted something for nothing.

Drunk or sober, Old Tomorrow promised everyone what they wanted to hear. Jobs! Feel Good Patriotism! Progress! Younger pols took note. Stand up for your principles and you wind up unemployed and forgotten, like old Alex Mackenzie. Manipulate, bribe and distort your way into power, and they'll put you on the ten dollar bill and erect a statue on Parliament Hill. Never has there been a clearer object political lesson in Canadian history.

When challenged on his motivations for cancelling the Potash purchase, Minister Clement gave an excellent impression of a chicken being plucked. Politics had nothing to do with stopping a private business transaction! No, sir. It was all about this thing called "net benefit to Canada." The deal, according to the Minister, had no net benefit to the country. Well, if you believe that what's good for Stephen Harper's political career is what's good for Canada, then that's probably true. If you believe that the good of this country is little served by the federal government manipulating private capital markets, then you might not agree.

The real question, however is not whether the Potash deal was a "net benefit" to Canada, but whether the Harper Tories are. Approaching the five year mark in government, the answer looks to be a pretty firm no.

Posted by Richard Anderson on December 22, 2010 | Permalink


What is really ominous in all this is that Harper's government denied shareholders of Potash Corp. the right to sell their shares for the best possible return. But it was political motivations that caused Harper to enter into what is supposed to be a free market and stymie what would have been an excellent return for shareholders. So, is Harper no going to pick and choose investment bases on political motivations? They are Conservatives in name only.

Posted by: AB Patriot | 2010-12-22 7:51:31 AM

I have a hard time believing the results of this private poll. That a Conservative government would get itself into trouble in the west by being of all things too Conservative. Toronto, okay, Quebec sure, but the west?

Posted by: Farmer Joe | 2010-12-22 8:40:31 AM

The truth is Harper is not conservative at all. It is a grand deception to convince those who favour conservative governance and policies that they are conservative. Harper is just another statist. He is no different that Obama. If anything, I suggest that Harper is closer to Obama on many issues. You just wait until Harper introduces carbon limits that rival those of California. Alberta will break from this Canadian perversion once and for all

Posted by: AB Patriot | 2010-12-22 4:47:12 PM

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