Take my power utility, please - Macleans.ca

Take my power utility, please

Some complain that New Brunswick’s sovereignty has been compromised, though it’s hard to see how


Take my power utility, pleaseIn the wake of Hydro-Québec’s astonishing $4.8-billion deal to take over New Brunswick’s electric power utility, I have just one question: would Hydro-Québec please take over Ontario’s next? As long as elephantine, debt-ridden provincial power utilities are taking over other elephantine, debt-ridden provincial power utilities, why should New Brunswick have all the fun? If the taxpayers of Quebec are generous enough to underwrite another province’s expensive energy policy mistakes alongside their own, then I say Ontario should be next in line.

NB Power got itself into trouble for much the same reason Ontario Hydro did, before its breakup a decade ago, as indeed did Hydro-Québec: it overexpanded, over-invested in capital plant, overpaid its over-manned workforce, and financed it all by over-borrowing—and undercharging consumers, effectively subsidizing demand to justify its own expansion. The combination of political ownership and monopoly control of the market proved all too prone to abuse, as it always does, the scale of the folly obscured by the usual cowboy accounting. It is, in short, a costly, politicized mess: $4.8 billion in debt, and groaning under the weight of its very own rundown, over-budget, behind-schedule nuclear fiasco, the Point Lepreau plant, beside which the Darlington disaster looks almost economic.

So you would think the deal would be popular among New Brunswickers. In return for the distribution grid, the transmission lines, and most (though not all) of its generating capacity, Hydro-Québec will assume responsibility for all of the utility’s debts, and freeze residential and commercial electricity rates for five years in the bargain (they had previously been scheduled to increase by three per cent annually). Industrial rates would be cut to levels comparable with those in Quebec. And with the utility’s liabilities erased from its balance sheet, the province’s debt would be reduced at a stroke by 40 per cent.

Yet the deal is proving hugely controversial in the province. For one thing, there’s the matter of Liberal Premier Shawn Graham’s 2006 election promise that the utility would be maintained in public ownership, though that is easily answered: NB Power will, in fact, remain publicly owned—just by another province’s public. Others complain that the province’s sovereignty has been compromised, though it’s hard to see how. Yes, the utility will no longer be owned by the province, but it will continue to be regulated by it, the same as any corporation, domestic or foreign, that operates within its borders. If anything, that ought to mean more effective regulation, since the province will no longer be in the conflict of interest of regulating itself.

If the deal is controversial in New Brunswick, it is simply toxic in Newfoundland, whose premier, Danny Williams, smells a plot to block power exports from the planned Lower Churchill hydroelectric project from reaching their intended markets in the American northeast, with Hydro-Québec instead using its newly acquired New Brunswick lines to deliver its own. With not only NB Power but possibly other provincial utilities in its clutches, he warns, Quebec would have a “stranglehold” on the region’s energy supply.

Again, these fears seem overblown. Perhaps Williams is disinclined to accept the government of New Brunswick’s assurances that it will maintain open access to its transmission lines, in its continuing role as the regulator of the utility. But he doesn’t have to believe them. If Hydro-Québec wants to sell into the U.S. market, it is required to abide by U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rules requiring the owners of power lines to give equal access to competing power suppliers. (Newfoundland would have to pay the going rate to wheel its power through New Brunswick, but it could not be discriminated against.) One might prefer that the Canadian common market were safeguarded from provincial conspiracies in restraint of trade by Canadian authorities, but in the absence of that merest expression of national will, the Americans will suffice.

If anyone ought to be leery of the deal, rather, it would seem to be Quebecers. Hydro-Québec has a history of ill-advised mega-projects spurred by grandiose visions of export riches, James Bay among them. It’s not at all clear that those northeastern states are thirsting for megawatts of imported hydroelectric power, given declining demand and plummeting natural gas prices. As the energy policy analyst Tom Adams has observed, Newfoundlanders may come to be thankful their own provincial power utility is not in the same position, trying to unload great whacks of additional power on an already saturated market.

Indeed, it’s still not clear this is a great deal even for New Brunswick. Yes, it has found a buyer for its bloated, listing power utility. But is Hydro-Québec the right buyer? Could it have fetched a higher price from a competitive bidding process? Rather than accepting payment in the form of the promised rate freeze—the province estimates the savings to consumers at $5 billion—why not demand the cash equivalent, and let rates float where they may, that is, according to the laws of economics, rather than politics? And rather than simply transfer control of the province’s electricity generation from one monopoly to another, whatever happened to opening the market to competition, promised in 2004 but never delivered?


Take my power utility, please

  1. Increased rates would make greater efficiency more economical etc. As it stands there is little incentive to save energy.

  2. What a poorly research article by Andrew Coyne. If he's going to comment on an issue he may as well be interested in it and take the time to learn some of the background. The contract between NB power and HQ requires New Brunswick to harmonize it's regulatory regime with Quebec's – that doesn't sound like sovereigny to me. As for Quebec being obliged to provide access to markets NL has been trying to obtain permission to transmit power through Quebec and has encountered nothing but politicised bureaucratic stopping-up of the process; this has been going on for years and will likely not change anytime soon.

    Quebec has propogated the idea that it's friendly to competitors for hydro export and that it abides by domestic and U.S. regulations requiring open transmission. Coyne has swallowed Quebec's rhetoric whole..

    • "NL has been trying to obtain permission to transmit power through Quebec and has encountered nothing but politicised bureaucratic stopping-up of the process"

      Nothing could be further from the truth.


      • Hey Mark, you seem to be a confused. You see the 300MW of recall power that NL was able to transmit through Quebec, in the deal referred to in your link, was part of the Upper Churchill contract and there was little QC could do to really hold back the sale of a relatively small amount of power that NL recalled from that hydro development. There's a wide gulf of difference between that small deal and the Lower Churchill project. Are you actually naive enough to believe that QC would facilitate the transmission of a competitor's power direct to market without using every measure or tactic available to them to: a) screw the competitor on transmission tariff b) make it as difficult as possible to reach any kind of deal at all? You actually think QC/HQ is going to be all chipper and helpful in regards to NL's efforts to develop a competing energy source? Grow up and stop apologizing for a province and corporate entity that is at the best of times hostile and anti-competitive.

        • (a) Get a dictionary.
          (b) Look up the word sarcasm.

  3. People should not write articles about subjects they do not understand. Macleans could have saved themselves a bunch of money by just printing the Liberal talking points straight from their site. While on the surface this does seem like a good deal for NB, any investigation into the details shows that there are numerous loopholes and unknowns that could cost New Brunswickers very dearly for the lifetime of this deal (which just happens to be eternity).

  4. Btw, I know Tom Adams has a great deal of experience opposing nuclear development both in Ontario and NB. Not sure if he has ever intervened against HydroQuebec's Gentilly-2 Nuclear Generating Station, though.

    While all the comments about out of control spending, excessive debt etc may very well be true, these inefficiencies should come out in the wash in the regulated rates charged to customers.

    If you compare NB residential customer rates with other utilities, they don't appear to be that out of line (caveat – these are NB Power graphs):

    Same with business rates:

    What is quite apparent, however, from those charts is that HQ is undercharging (subsidizing) their customers – selling below local market rates elsewhere.


  5. Oh boy, Andrew. You are in for a vitriolic whack of comments from the anti-French, anti-Quebec, big-labour and Tory nutjobs who've been inundating, threatening and scaremongering NBers with their rhetoric for the past two weeks.

  6. While I normally like Andrew Coyne's work, I am in agreement that these observations are a bit lacking in depth.

    If there are costs to be recovered – referring to the MOU – they go on the backs of New Brunswick rate payers and not the other way around.

    NBPower is capbable of charging New Brunswick higher power bills, so what would we need another company to do that for?

    • Easy. New Brunswickers can't vote out the Quebec government out of anger over their electricity rates. Something every New Brunswick politican will be thankful for in the long run.

  7. People know that Quebec got in a dispute with NL and this is their way of dealing with it…they seem to have a reputation for not playing very nice when they don't get their way. The five year rate freeze is enough to get them to 2016 when the original NL contract is up for renewal and there is some evidence the remaining years were tacked on under duress, so we will see how that pans out if Danny decides to launch a court case.

    There is no such thing as a whack of additional power either…that's completely farcical. Upstate New York and New England needs power. Even if there is additional the rate would return the cost.

    Well, I won't stop reading your articles Andrew, but best not make believe good things about this deal. It is too obvious that there is a motive and too many loose ends for this to be a rose tinted love affair between NB and Quebec. There won't be any sparks when the honeymoon is over.

  8. Andrew Wrote: "Hydro-Québec will assume responsibility for all of the utility's debts"

    No, this is factually wrong. HQ assume nones of NB Power's debt, as explicitly stated in the MOU.

    HQ is paying $4.75b for the face value of the NBPower assets they desire (and leaving the ones they do not for NB) – that's it.

    Read the MOU.

    • Dated generation facilities using older fuels (coal, oil) often meet the end of their economic life and are shutdown in many jurisdictions. As the economics change (perhaps through competing technologies, or external taxes for carbon) these are reclassified as "stranded assets", Not surprising that HQ would not invest in these assets as they may now be economically unviable. They have no value, in today's market. Time to write them off, and shut them down.

  9. I've always thought that instead of subsidizing farmers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, the Canadian government should lease the land and farms to Cargill for $1 a year. I'm glad Coyne is in favour.

  10. I'm pretty disappointed this article glosses over the many holes in the deal, but even more disappointed at how it also glosses over how the Liberals campaigned explicitly on NOT selling NB Power. Remember that whole democracy thing? Now they're trying to ram this through before an election in the face of overwhelming public opposition.

    • That is the point everyone seems to be missing. The Liberals won on a promise of making NB an energy hub. Now, they are arguing they have to do this because of the province's financials. They have the same financial information now that they had access when they made their election promises.
      HQ will end up shutting down all power generation facilities in NB, mark my word.

  11. andrew coyne doesn't know what he's talking about. poorly researched article. this idiot likes to hear himself talk.

  12. No one wrote that NB has been purchasing Quebec's electricity for decades. And also electricity from Maine, NY, NS, etc. Electricity is bought and sold second by second.

    I am a people of NB and customer of NB Power and, like the majority of us, am totally against that sale. It would be more acceptable if NB Power sold all its production facilities and become a mere electricity broker. But to become obligatory customers of Quebec's production sucks. It reeks of politics and we do not like this smell.

    If the NB Libs are reading these comments, I suggest they start preparing for a miserable collapse at the next election. If the NB Conservatives are reading, I call on them to block this sale until the elections. The rest will be very easy.

  13. Please know more about what is really going on before writing an article. One might want to read the MOU a couple of times

  14. I enjoy reading comments about this deal. Hydro-Quebec lost the contract for Northeastern US after it was perceived to have caused a blackout in 2003 that shut down cities such as New York. Hydro Quebec needs a backup power supply for making economical its planned expansion in wind energy sites in Gaspe which, if the utility built their own plants for that region, would cost a lot more than 5 billion dollars. New Brunswick Power contracted out to a central Canadian firm the refurbishment of its nuclear power generator and a subcontractor dropped a integral piece of the reactor in Saint John Harbour causing long delays. Assets central to the European Steel and Coal Community, once integral to the sovereignty of that continent, are now in the gentle hands of a conglomerate on the Indian subcontinent. No one decried a potential energy monopoly in that instance and none should be decried for the transfer of NB coal/generation plants from one public companies' portfolio to another.

    • HQ did not cause that blackout. HQ is isolated from the NY system with AC:DC|DC:AC interties. The blackout to which you refer began in Ohio and propagated throughout much of the NE and Ontario. Not Quebec. It stayed up an healthy and because it was up and healthy the rest of the NE system was more quickly restored.
      The only thing that Coyne got right in his entire article was the conflict of self regulation point.

  15. More interesting. There's nothing that says that cabinet members *must* be from the governing party or even vote with it. So appoint Rae while leaving him in the Liberal party. This would essentially emasculate any attempts to paint Harper as someone who does not work with other parties, and allows him to say that he works with talent when he sees it.

    In addition, Harper could probably use the appointment to hamstring the Liberal Party, because Cabinet Ministers are sworn to secrecy, so when the Liberals hear of any sort of scandal, Rae himself would be insisting that the party take great pains to show that the information didn't come from him. Naturally this makes it a lot harder for the Liberals if they have to properly source claims.

    Is it risky? Sure. Giving a Liberal an inside view of cabinet is risky if Harper is up to any shenanigans.. however, if he's really as clean as his supporters around here like to claim, that shouldn't be any problem.

    • Is this true, Thwim — that a cab minister need not belong to the government party? I know we had Fortier — an unelected cabinet minister appointed from Senate — so ministers of the crown don't have to cross the floor and join the other party?

      Has this ever happened in Canada?

      • There is an extremely strong constitutional convention that requires Cabinet members (the executive and Crown’s direct advisors) to vote together on confidence motions. If an individual Cabinet member disagrees with the decision of the whole, the time to voice that disagreement is in the Cabinet chamber. In parliament the Cabinet must be united (again, on confidence motions).

        The discussion is all theoretical however, since if Rae really were made Minister of Foreign Affairs in a Harper Cabinet, I’m sure Ignatieff would waste no time in revoking Rae’s Liberal party membership and his Liberal nomination in Toronto Centre.

        Off the top of my head, I think the only time that the country has had members of different parties in the same Cabinet was in the First World War Union ministry of Robert Borden (the only real coalition government that has ever been proposed or existed in post-confederation Canada).

        • However, Harper has shown nothing if not that he is willing to flout constitutional convention.

        • Cabinet Solidarity is not a constitutional requirment

          • If you mean it isn't written down, then yes, but much of the constitution isn't written down.

            I challenge you to find an instance in which a Cabinet member has voted against his/her Cabinet colleagues on a confidence motion and remained a member of Cabinet.

          • I challenge you to find the phrase "Prime Minister" in the written consitution. :)

            As non-partisan says, more of the Canadian consitution is unwritten (prescedent-based) than is written.

          • From Marleau and Monpetit (the bible of Parliamentary Procedure and Practice) "Once appointed, the Prime Minister selects a number of confidential advisors (usually from among the Members of the government party) who are first made members of the Privy Council. The selected confidential advisors are then sworn in as Ministers. Collectively, they are known as the “Ministry” or Cabinet. [147] Privy Councillors are active in their capacity as advisors to the Crown only as part of a Ministry. [148] However, not all Privy Councillors are part of a Ministry and some may never have been Ministers. [149] "

          • From Marleau and Monpetit (the bible of Parliamentary Procedure and Practice) "Once appointed, the Prime Minister selects a number of confidential advisors (usually from among the Members of the government party) who are first made members of the Privy Council. The selected confidential advisors are then sworn in as Ministers. Collectively, they are known as the “Ministry” or Cabinet. [147] Privy Councillors are active in their capacity as advisors to the Crown only as part of a Ministry. [148] However, not all Privy Councillors are part of a Ministry and some may never have been Ministers. [149] "

          • footnote 149 is important:
            "There are two main categories of Privy Councillor: one group includes current and former Cabinet Ministers; the other includes those appointed as an honour but who have never been Cabinet Ministers. Among those in the second group have been leaders of opposition parties, Chief Justices anddistinguished Canadians. Certain exceptions have been made: during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, New Democratic Party leader Audrey McLaughlin was sworn in as a Privy Councillor so that she could be given highly secret information; members of the Security Intelligence Review Committee must, by statute, be Privy Councillors, and several have been appointed solely for that reason (Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, R.S.C. 1985, C-23, s. 34(1))."

          • Thanks for the good sources and info. Of course, as is pointed out in your notes, there is an important distinction between Privy Councilors and Cabinet members. The latter are essentially a committee of the former and are not required (or even in a position) to vote with the government on confidence motions.

            For example, once a Privy Councilor always a Privy Councilor. There are many Liberals currently sitting in the House of Commons who are members of the Privy Council – but not being in the Cabinet of course, they aren't expected to vote in favour of government confidence measures (that would be awkward.)

        • Fair enough, but usually going the other way.

      • Yes it has, provincially in Alberta, Premier Herbert Greenfield of the United Farmers of Alberta appointed Alex Ross of the opposition Dominion Labor caucus as Minister of Labour.

        • Interesting; but that seems to have been a very unique and unstable case.

          In fact, at the beginning of the ministry you mention, several UFA backbench members were concerned that the concept of cabinet solidarity would require UFA members to vote in favour of legislation that they did not personally support. Some members attempted to pass a resolution that would allow the government to fall only on a specific vote of non-confidence. This motion gained attention from politicians across the country, and future Prime Minister Bennet considered it unconstitutional. The motion ended up being watered down to a relatively meaningless statement and the principle of cabinet solidarity much outlasted Greenfield's troubled ministry.

  16. "Relations between the two men are said to be poisonous, and while Rae, now 62, may still hope to succeed him after the next election, his chances of ever being in government grow dimmer the longer time passes."

    Said by whom? Not Bob Rae, who spoke to us in Kitchener about this just a couple of months ago. They have been friends since grade-school, and are friends today. That is not to make light of the fact that they are both competitive men, and both of them want the top job. But, Rae is very much supportive of Ignatieff, who won this round. Ask Larry Bird and Magic Johnson how much value this kind of relationship has.

    • Jordan and Pippen of the Bulls might have been better names to use in your analogy since Bird and Johnson were on different teams, unless there was some kind of twist in your analogy that I did not catch.

      I better reread the article since folks seem to be taking Coyne seriously about Rae joining a Conservative Gov`t with PM Harper as his boss. I just assumed Coyne was just bored and having some fun on a dark day in January.

      • Well, give me some credit for using a sports analogy!

        Actually, I just watched a part of a documentary the other morning with Larry Bird and how devastated he was to hear Magic Johnson had aids. And Magic teared up even these many years later when relating how Larry called him and their conversation. So, no, there was no twist in what turns out to be an imperfect analogy that I was heretofore so proud of.

        Way to go, Blue.

        • Sorry to deflate your sporting attempt Jenn—-just trying to be helpful.
          I miss watching basketball.
          Sometimes I wonder if Johnson and Bird also have trouble sitting through even the first half of today`s game.

  17. Could Rae stomach working for a control freak like Harper? I doubt it. Not to mention, even if he stayed a Liberal while in this potential cabinet post, his joining of Harper's team would look like tacit endorsement of the government's policies in many other areas. Rae is a moderate lefty, but that's still waaaay too left to be seen to be endorsing the government's other stances.

    • Ah, but he would increase his chances of becoming PM. Evidence suggests this would trump all other considerations.

      • Hmmmm, I'm not sure by what evidence. Apart from the rumour mill that they dislike each other, what has he himself done to undermine Iggy?

        • Not saying he has; just that he has run twice for the top Liberal job and not gotten it, and his party allegiances have of course proved negotiable. If Ignatieff doesn't work out, is it once more a francophone/Quebecer's 'turn' as Liberal leader, or is that tradition still in effect?

          • No, your exact quote was "evidence suggests this would trump all other considerations"

            As your "evidence", you bring up the fact that he ran for the leadership twice. Well, so did Flaherty and Clement if I remember correctly. You know, those two that used to pledge allegiance to another political party.

          • Well, that and the fact that he switched parties when it suited his ambitions once before.

      • Surely you jest. Rae is totally irrelevant.

  18. Really bad idea Andrew. In case you haven't noticed, The Gulf News has been running editorials/articles nearly every day that are anti-Harper. Here is the latest with McTeague. Cheesy politics at its worst. http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/ottawa-complete

    Let us not forget how Sir Lanka welcomed him with open arms.

    The one thing Rae is good at is "proroguing parliament"

  19. Even if he was the best man for the job, Rae is of great value to Harper and his supporters while being a prominent Liberal.

    Seconded about Harper not having great CPC material to choose from, though, and its true for most jobs.

  20. I have always thought of Rae as a very smart and thoughtful politician who makes really, really, REALLY bad choices when it comes to his own career.

    But I think he should stay with the Liberals, he will be the next leader, won't be PM either, but will help rebuild the party and that's a heck of a nice legacy!

  21. Foreign affairs is such a joke under Harper it's rather pathetic. What do you expect from a control freak who's never left Canada before becoming Prime Minister?

    • I assume that you actually meant that he'd never left Canada except to visit the US (after all, the US is where he made those speeches that were critical of Canada). Whether he travelled anywhere other than that, I have no idea.

  22. Rae as the next Liberal leader, no. It'll be the Francophone turn.

  23. It will be Mark Garneau and he has GOOD baggage and is well-loved in the Belle Province and beside that. he has got BALLS.

    • Marc Garneau is a joke. Spaceman Spiff has more credibility.

      • Agreed – The atmosphere has gone to his head.

    • Do you work for Fruit of the Loom?

    • What Garneau said to aerospace workers in Montréal while Ignatieff was saying the money for the F35 would be better spent on Search and Rescue, etc.

      "Mr. Garneau said his party would maximize the maintenance work conducted in Canada, and likely seek a fighter jet with twin engines instead of the one-engine F-35 to conduct patrols in isolated regions of the North.

      (Globe and Mail, January 14, 2011)

      I wonder which Bob Rae would go for.

  24. it seems that the writer is living in utopia. But when ti becomes unpopular to be in Afganistan and there is the slightest chance to frame the conservatives as the ones who want to be in Afganistan they would have played the partisan politcs game.
    prime Minister played his cards right by allowing the USA to put pressure on Ignatief (who is also a proud american) to commit to it first.

    • Exactly – why more people do not see this is beyond me.

      • Well, probably because it isn't true. Ignatieff has never, ever held any citizenship other than Canadian. Americans didn't put pressure on him, his own conscience did, and some Afghani citizens did as well.

  25. Among the other reasons this would likely never happen is Rae's tenure as NDP Premier of Ontario. That is such a juicy and constant target for Canadian conservatives; therefore, climbing into bed with Rae would be an awfully tough thing for those same conservatives to defend and swallow.

    • I don;t think so – I think it would delight the party immensely !!!

    • Are you suggesting that Harper has not ALREADY had the habit of royally P'ing O true conservatives?

  26. Harper doesn't need to hire Rae… he's already doing everything he can to keep the Liberals from power.

  27. Rae Dazed.

    • I do love it when self avowed conservatives take up the rallying cries of the unions against Rae curtailing their power.

      • They certainly seem to have a love/hate relationship with the CAW. Strange.

    • HAHAHAHAHA ! – now that was funny as it works on so many levels – well done !!!

    • NDP ran up a huge deficit and now Harper has done the same. Birds of a feather, you know…

  28. Very ballsy Mr. Coyne! You know that this will never happen but it is a great ploy!
    Sow more dissension among the Liberal caucus while making a few points about Harper's mismanagement of Canada's foreign policy in the middle east.
    There is some convergence on foreign and defense policies between the Ignatieff/Rae duo but they arrive at their position from principle rather than mere political triangulation and with an eye on garnering more votes in this or that constituency as Harper does.
    Stop being cute Mr. Coyne and do what you do best, speak truth to power, whom ever might be your target!
    Mr. Harper deserves to be strongly criticized for his lamentable foreign and defense policies so do it straight up!
    If Mr. Rae deserves praise for his efforts to rebuild ties withal the UAE then your should say this straight up without fear of reprisals from the omnipotent PMO!

    • Well, I can't see this causing dissension among the Liberal caucus, but I do find it surprising that in this entire thread, nobody has brought up the fact that Harper put out an op-ed in an American newspaper to disagree with the Government of Canada in favour of the United States. And he did it while being the Leader of the Loyal Opposition. That's quite a few steps up from writing a blog post about it, in English and not Arabic, so obviously for Canadian, not Emirates consumption.

      “patriotic politicians don't bash their own government on other people's shores.” Indeed.

  29. This is pretty rich coming from you, Andrew: "But I seem to recall some pretty harsh words also being exchanged shortly before David Emerson's appointment."

    Which NP columnist was it that went off the deep end when Emerson crossed? Who was it that WOULD NOT LET IT GO?

    Oh yeah. That was you.


    • Stay classy San Diego…

  30. Deservedly or not, Rae carries a lot of baggage from his tenure as the NDP premier of Ontario. I highly doubt Harper would be willing to touch that with a ten-foot pole. Ontario Conservative voters would be irate.

    Rae has been the victim of terrible timing on more then one occasion. I honestly believe the Liberals wouldn't be stuck at historically low polling numbers had he won a leadership convention. (Which still hasn't happened since Dion was elected as leader.)

    "You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine."
    ―Obi-Wan Kenobi

    • I agree!

  31. In Harper's world, the words "gifted politician" and "minister" are never used in one sentence. So no luck for Bob Rae here.

  32. Maybe Rae and other small c conservative Liberals, should simply cross the floor, and join the Conservatives. A lot of them can't stand being in the same room as Ignatieff either. If enough did, then voila – a Conservative majority government – which is what the vast majority of Canadians want now anyway ; but without the cost of an expensive election. The taxpayers would be thrilled, by both the newer, now vastly more effective government, as well as the considerable cost savings. Iggy would go home, so the Liberals would be very happy too.

    • Rae is a small-c conservative? Has Harper managed to make us all misunderstand what that term actually means?

      Based on Coyne's say-so over the Afghan policy advocacy, and based on speaking up for delinking Camp Mirage and landing rights in favour of the shameful sheiks who were doing the linking?

      I require waaaay more evidence.

  33. would not surprise me in the least to see him cross the floor if Stevie is still PM next year ! – a final ginzo poltical stab at his past competitor

  34. small conservative. And a lot more of them can't stand being in the same room as the control cult leader either. Even the true progressive conservatives can't stand him either. And for your information, the vast majority of Canadians are not giving Harper a Cart blanche ever a majority. They have had five years of the cruelty and spite of a dictator and it is more likely that they don't want him to even win a minority gov. ever again. By your post, I would say you have been off your meds too long so go take another dose while you can. Or that funny tobacco you kids generally use. Kills the brain ells one by one and by your post, I see you've been at it for a very long time now. Be careful, very careful. You need at 2 to be able to rub them together and I would say that is not an exaggeration.

    • Wow! You need to get out more. Leave the wine and computer alone for a few days and go for a walk. Those walls are starting to close in on you. I know, poor, drunk half the time, and on the public tit, but hey, its all our fault right? We have a term for people like you in these postmodern times, its called, 'loser'!

  35. Hey baretta. Talk much?

  36. Forget it. Who in their right mind would want to be on Harper's team!

    • You miss the seat count and election results in 2006-2008?

    • Who in his/her right mind would want to have a person who sunk a province on the ground? Ah right, a party who is sunk way too deep in its own dooh.

  37. Did anyone read senator Kenedys letter about the UAE. Good reading.It tells you how the real UAL clans run the country.

  38. Coynes take on Emirates: And while the government's refusal to allow Emirates Airlines landing rights in Canada can only be described as rank protectionism, it is Rae who has proposed a gradual opening of the Canadian market, and a sensible delinking of the issue with the question of Canadian access to the Camp Mirage air base in Dubai.

    My take: Where is the upside for Canadian Airlines like Air Canada? Dubai is a fortress hub for Emirates. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortress_hub#Fortres… There is no chance Air Canada will compete on equal terms on direct traffic into Dubai, the local management in Dubai will make sure of it, and no, I don't trust any assurances the UAE may offer based on their past performance.

    What Rae is advocating is replacing the few good paying Canadian airline jobs that still exist in the Canadian Airline industry with poor paying McJobs throwing bags in Vancouver and Calgary for whatever bag handling contractor Emirates can get for the cheapest.

    • Not enough people see it as a threat.
      Wolfgang Mayrhuber, who was CEO of Lufthansa until Dec. 31, 2010, adding that it is becoming "a very serious threat to the aviation industry in Germany and all of Europe." Another corporate executive, who would prefer to remain anonymous, sees things in even more dire terms. "These are monster airlines that have almost unlimited financial means at their disposal thanks to their governments,"

    • Stop asking where the upside is for Canadian airlines. Start asking what the upside is for Canada. Or rather, the downside, since the combined value of Camp Mirage to us – past, present, and now lost in future – was pretty staggering.

  39. How about Bob just retires gracefully,maybe history will soften how he ran a province into the ground..This makeover of Rae as some sort of wise,elder statesman of government is sad revisionist history.

    • 4 Years of Rae: big deficit, however 1989-1993 saw a serious recession.
      8 years of Mike Harris, Oil Can Ernie and Flip-flop Flaherty: Bigger deficit, during a period of rapid economic growth.
      Flaherty claimed deficit was gone, only to be shown the door after it was revealed he was hiding the true figures.

      I'm no fan of Rae, but let's look at the facts for a moment. The Harper Party trumpets the NDPs FOUR years of failure while conveniently ignoring their own EIGHT years of fiscal fumbling.

    • You hit the nail on the head bro, Rae is a loser but look who is in power now, McGuinty….how stupid are the people of Ontario???? It is just disgusting….

  40. I don't recall AC calling David Emerson Harper's "cipher and stumblebum"when he was Foreign Minister, or did I miss that column?

    Anyway I couldn't disagree more. It is Ignatieff (circa 2006) you should have been Harper's Foreign Minister. Ignatieff was coaxed back because obviously he thought he was going to be a big-shot in Paul Martin's government. When Martin quit on election night 2006 he, like Emerson,should have crossed over to join Harper. He would have been an excellent Conservative Foreign Minister.

    Why the Liberals chose a pro-American, pro-George W Bush, pro-Iraq invasion, pro-jet fighters (good for NATO bombing of countries like Serbia when committing genocide in Kosovo and failing to R2P), pro-oil-sands, anti-Kyoto ("Stephane, you didn't get it done"), neo-con leader like Ignatieff is a mystery to me.

    • ssssh.

      He his a mole or a double-agent?

      Ignatieff is a wonderful asset to the Conservatives.

      Look at the results of his leadership. I suggest they allow him two runs as Liberal leader.

    • That's because you don't recall Emerson being Minister of Foreign Affairs, period. He was International Trade Minister.

  41. I know I say this every time Bob Rae's prospects come up, but if he had done the exact same job as premier but as a member of the Liberal Party, he'd be Prime Minister today.

  42. Well, he's taken a tour through two parties, why not a third ?

  43. Little Jack Horner, sat in a very conservative corner
    Then he went to work for Trudeau and made Clark a mourner

    can't see this one with Rae and Harper, though

    I applaud Andrew for showing just how extraordinarily bereft the Con side is, of talent!!
    Horner was a little joke Pierre got away with to cover a regional weakness but he certainly did not need a star cabinet player as Harper does.
    Funny, if Harper wasn't a control freak, he may have had a few more Helenas on his watch but he may also have built some bench strength. Harris retreads, hopelessly out of their depth is the best we gots. 5 wasted years!

    • If that were the case the Libs would be in power and the point moot. But that is not the case, making your point….well…moot!

  44. Red Bob Rae is already Steven Harper's best friend.He has never gotten over that the interloper Iffy was appointed leader without a party vote.He gently sticks the knife in Iffy's back every chance he gets, gently but oh so plain.

    • Do you have any actual evidence of that?

    • He even twists it!

  45. I actually like this idea. In fact I think you could go one further and additionally appoint Scott Brison as Finance Minister in order to help get us out of Harper's ridiculous deficit. It would be great to get some actual attention to the environment, so Harper could appoint Gerard Kennedy for his intelligence and knowledge of the file. Dominic LeBlanc would be a massive improvement in National Defense. Most positively, Harper could improve our country ten fold by appointing Michael Ignatieff as … well … Prime Minister.

    • A stealth coup – it's brilliant!

    • Silly Liberal! But funny though!

  46. Rae has no idea what he's talking about and how to deal with the UAE rulers. He would be a Trojan horse for Harper.

    On his blogs he makes up figures like the $2 billion in trade to lose but official figures are $1.385 billion, $1.1 billion in exports and $285 million in imports. He says we will lose jobs because there are 200 companies based there but doesn't mention how many Canadians these companies employ (very little) or why it matters to Canadians.

  47. Harper did not bungle this file. This is an ongoing issue with many airlines and many countries. Air Canada is entitled to be concerned about a huge influx of 'seats' from a long-haul carrier. Even though Air Canada is a private company operating in a supposedly 'free market', that market is not entirely free. The issue relates to airline landing rights as well as purchasing subsidies for aircraft that are not equally available, yet, extraordinarily, originate in the USA and Europe.

    "Lufthansa is one of a number of European carriers, including Air France KLM and British Airways, to call for curbs on the expansion of Gulf carriers on long-haul routes.

    The carriers claim Gulf airline use unfair subsidies to finance aircraft deals and to take market share from existing airlines."

    16 January 2011

    • If foreign governments want to subsidize Canadian air travel, why not let them?

      I'm with Harper in stiff-arming the UAE, because they're being jerks, but in principle, just give them the slots and let them subsidize us.

  48. As Gaby points out in his/her post here, it seems that the Gulf carriers are attempting to become WalMarts of the airline world.

    • This is actually an undeserved compliment to compare the carriers to WalMart because Walmart employs mostly local citizens, pays taxes and has some resemblence of a social safety net where else Emirates pays very little taxes and outsources most of its work to underpaid foreigners who are fired at will without recourse.

  49. Ha, ha, ha… Good one Coyne! Hey, why not hire an official from the UAE to run Canada's foreign affairs. Bob Rae, ha, ha , ha… that's hilarious.

  50. It is fun to watch the left squirm. They remind me of Rodney Dangerfield. It's only getting worse as the population ages. Remember, the old saying still applies–If you aren't a liberal at 20 you have no heart and if you are still a liberal at 40 you have no brains.

  51. Mr Coyne, from time to time you manage to say something really really ridiculous, and you've done it again. Perhaps you are attempting to stimulate reader interest. Or perhaps you really believe that Mr Rae is the greatest living Canadian politician. God help Canada.

  52. I'm all for it. Just have him leave the Liberal party, run for the cons, get elected and he's in. Otherwise, only Liberals appoint unelected individuals to really important posts, like party leader for instance. So, not going to happen. A socialist in the heart of his government? He would be a fool if he did.

  53. Andrew Coyne clearly had too much egg nog over the holidays if he thinks Stephen Harper should hire Bob Rae. Since Coyne was clearly visiting the International Space Station from 1990 to 1995, let me remind him of the “much-needed heft” Bob Rae brought to the Ontario government:

    Tens of billions of dollars added to Ontario's debt;

    A reduction in the number of doctors graduating from medical schools, fueling a family doctor shortage that perisists to this day;

    Boarded-up windows of small businesses across Ontario forced to close shop under Rae's tax-and-spend policies costing hundreds of thousands of lost jobs;

    Hiring more bureaucrats while private sector jobs evaporated , with hard-working Ontarians suffering under one of the most punishing tax burdens in North America.

    There is a reason the NDP remains irrelvant in Ontario. Voters like me remember all too well that when we handed Bob Rae the keys to Ontario's economy he drove it straight into the ditch.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

    Coyne, check your head

  54. "Where the government was prepared to cut and run from Afghanistan, it was Rae who shamed them into staying, at least in a training capacity."

    Andrew, It's when you write things like this that I wonder just where your head is. Your credibility as a journalist is tarnished by such ridiculous statements. I'm afraid you've been viewing the situation from ideological "red" colored glasses. (not the pristine, clear lenses of seeing things how they really are.)

  55. Gee, I remember Stephen Harper writing op-eds in the Wall Street Journal about how awful the Liberals were, and more recently meeting with Media Vulture Rupert Murdoch in New York about how to bring his particularly partisan media outlets here. If Mr. Ignatieff is so 'pro-American', thenj what's to be made of Mr. Harper? His former career was one long boot-lick of all things USA.

    Typical Harpercrites. Do as we say, not as we do. Mr. Rae hasn't done anything that the Harper Party hasn't done itself.

  56. I voted conservative in '08.

    Oddly, even joking about hiring a former New Democrat Premier turned Liberal as a Conservative minister – so the Conservatives could then have a more conservative foreign policy – would, if implemented, make me more likely to vote Conservative again.

    Things have fallen that far.

  57. This would give Rae the "hat trick" of having served in all three national political parties. And when he's retired to the Senate (as is inevitable in Canadian politics), he can sit as a member of the Bloc. Let's do it!