In a battle reminiscent of past Quebec feuds, the Martin Liberals find themselves at odds with the Ontario chattering class. It was after they engaged in very public showdowns with their Liberal counterparts in Quebec that the federal Liberals started losing their hold on the province two decades ago. A spring campaign would find Harper on the right side of McGuinty's crusade for a fairer deal for his province. He would also be in sync with the federalist premier of Quebec, who is demanding a different fiscal bargain with Ottawa.If Harper can align with Ontario and Quebec in demanding a fiscal rebalancing there is a good chance he could form a minority government if the government is defeated any time soon. This is meat and potatos stuff - far away from SSM - and it means real dollars flowing to the provinces.
chantel hebert, toronto star
Are Canadians ready to embrace a degree of decentralism? I hope so. It will depend on how it is packaged. Part of the problem for the Liberals is the fact they have struck such a bizarre deal with Nfld.
Most Canadians understand and accept equalization; but it is difficult to see the reasoning behind leaving a province officially "have not" when it is getting surging oil revenues to which, constitutionally, it has only the most tenuous claim.
If harper can get the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec to do the heavy lifting on fiscal rebalancing he might be able to campaign on "a fair deal for all the provinces" and win more seats than he's bound to lose in Atlantic Canada.
Best of all, the importance of reducing the federal government's role in the allocation of money in the Confederation is a pretty sane, rather conservative idea.
But, realistically, the Grits are not quite dumb enough to refuse to seperate the Kyoto bill from the Budget bill so my bet is that there is not going to be an election.