Five stories we're watching -

Five stories we’re watching

The Maclean’s Ottawa bureau reviews the news with a nod to next week’s headlines


Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in Ottawa last month before his annual summer policy retreat. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

The political workweek of Sept. 10-14 churned up five stories the endings of which have yet to be written.

1. Keep watching for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to announce a federal appeal of the Quebec Superior Court’s Sept. 10 ruling that Ottawa must save the Quebec data in the scrapped federal long-gun registry, allowing the province to use it in its own planned database of rifles and shotguns. Toews promised to review the decision, and Conservatives will be shocked if he doesn’t opt to fight it in a higher court.

2. While news was focused on the 9/11 anniversary Tuesday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was in Newfoundland delivering a grim speech on the economy. At the St. John’s Board of Trade, Flaherty expressed growing concern about the outlook for the U.S. and emerging markets—and frustration over lack of private-sector job creation in Canada. Was this a preview of the government’s main economic message for the fall: we’re doing our part, but corporate Canada’s letting us down?

3. Stephen Harper won power in 2006 promising a new era of squeaky-clean political ethics. But his claim to having made good on that pledge has been undermined by the so-called robocalls scandal. On Sept. 12, a potential new opening for opposition attacks emerged, with word that actions of Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, are being examined by the federal ethics commissioner. Wright met repeatedly last spring with representatives of Barrick Gold Corp., even though he’s close to the Monk family, which owns the mining giant. Robocalls is complex. The PM’s top aide being lobbied by old, close friends isn’t. Making this a story worth monitoring for its impact on the government’s image.

4. The death on Sept. 13 of Peter Lougheed, the former Alberta premier who faced off against the Trudeau government’s National Energy Policy, prompted much reflection on former times. But Lougheed also had an influence on today’s Alberta politics. An old-school Progressive, he supported Alison Redford in her successful bid to fend off the Wildrose challenge in last spring’s provincial election. His passing, which prompted a flood of tributes, might lend luster to Redford’s brand of moderate, some even say “Red Tory,” Conservatism? It would be crass to politicize his death. Yet Lougheed’s iconic status could prove powerful as a beacon to those who stand against Alberta shifting ever rightward.

5. When the Parti Québécois won the Quebec election earlier this month, Ottawa politicos and pundits wondered how the Harper government would react to a separatist government. Nobody expected anything like this: on Sept. 14, Industry Minister Christian Paradis announced the end of the federal government’s controversial support for Quebec’s asbestos exports, blaming the Pauline Marois, the new PQ premier, for leaving Ottawa no choice. Is caving in on the first big file to be acted on since the election really the precedent the Tories had in mind? A tougher tone must be in store for the days and weeks ahead.

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Five stories we’re watching

  1. Cb

  2. Tsk, tsk, tsk….did Flaherty really believe that fairy tale about how cutting corporate taxes and removing regulations would ‘free’ our economy from some dreaded ‘socialism’ and we’d boom??

    Buncha grown adults too…..sad.

    • This comment was deleted.

      • Spam alert – unless you think you can make thousands staying at home and not selling anything…

        • Just flag’em..
          Hell, these days I don’t even bother to downvote’em.

  3. “we’re doing our part, but corporate Canada’s letting us down?”

    That argument would be pretty ridiculous. The neo-con mantra is to get government off the backs of business, let them do their thing and watch the prosperity trickle down.

    The Harper Government certainly did this by slashing corporate taxes. According to KPMG’s Competitive Alternatives report for 2012, Canada has the lowest *effective* corporate tax rate among all other listed countries (which includes provincial and local taxes.)

    Corporations aren’t letting Canadians down. They are doing what most people expected: pocketing the tax cuts. The Harper Government is letting us down with its rigid free-market ideology — the same kind of snake oil that caused the 2008 meltdown.

    Harper is now talking free-trade with China which will destroy even more wealth and jobs. He just doesn’t get it.

    • Trade or die, Ron.

      • The reality is we already import 5 times what we export to China. That isn’t trading. That is getting the short end of the stick.

        We need government that represents the interest of Canadians on trade deals, not corporations and oligarchs. They benefit from doctrinaire free-trade because it allows them to bypass first-world regulations and exploit workers, including child labor. This winds back the clock on progress causing living standards to equalize downwards (which we are clearly seeing.)

        Left-wing protectionism isn’t the answer. But fair, managed trade allows living standards in first-world and developing countries to rise. Free trade, which is the right-wing extreme, is killing us.

        • Well then maybe we’d best get off our butts and export more goods, hmmm?

          Please stop with the ideology….we have negotiators working to benefit Canada….so no one is interested in wild conspiracy theories.

          Free trade is exactly what it says… without tariffs, barriers or protectionism….and it’s what we’re all working towards. It is where the whole world is going.

          • Free trade is the ideological position. It is predicated on the belief that a free-market economy is the most prosperous. But after 30 years of free-market reforms — which created an economic tide that only raised the yachts and culminated in a global economic meltdown — we see that the opposite is true.

            Fair trade is based on practical real-world considerations. If a country is cutting corners on environmental regulations getting an unfair advantage, it is hit with punitive tariffs to prevent a race to the bottom. If a country undervalues its currency, it is hit with tariffs to level the playing field. Freer trade is encouraged; abuses are dealt with.

            The ideological position is to believe that the free-market gods will balance everything out in the end. It is nothing more than self-serving doctrine cooked up by corrupt businessmen.

            The free-market Washington Consensus is on the wane. The mixed-market system, that created modern living standards in the post-war era, will dominate by the end of this decade. We can’t keep going the way we’re going. The libertarian path is destroying the global economy.

          • No, free trade is just free trade….and it doesn’t matter what economic system it’s used in. Violations are punished by not trading.

            The Third Way is what most countries have been using for years now….but I agree that the world economy is changing over.

            Capitalism is as dead as Communism and Socialism.

          • Countries do not become rich due to fair trade; they become rich through protectionism. The history of wealthy nations is on selective protectionism. The US became the world’s biggest economy based on a highly mercantilist system of trading in the 1800s and early-to-mid 1900s; many of the world’s current hottest economies–China, India, etc.–have been taking advantage of protectionist policies to drive local growth; the British Empire, back in the day, used protectionism to become the richest and most powerful country in the world; it is generally believed that poverty in Africa would be greatly alleviated by following similar policies (much like what has happened in Asia).

          • Countries have become rich in a variety of ways….including war and colonialism….but at some point as the globe becomes smaller you have to move to free trade.

            Protectionism no longer works.

          • Correction on that. The US became the world’s biggest economy based on them winning WW2 with little collateral damage. With Europe in tatters, Russian policies backwards and Japan A-bombed, the US had no other competition on its way to become the biggest economy. There are 4 steps to every economic cycle:

            1.we’re poor and we know it (post WW2)
            2. we’re rich and we don’t know it (60’s)
            3. we’re rich and we know it (80’s and great corporate and industrial US)
            4. we’re poor and we don’t know it (financial crisis)

            Guess where Canada is now standing at debt to income of over +150%?

  4. Evidently Macleans has not been paying much attention to recent robocall stories of late…the lawsuit against the NDP and that NDP tool who slandered Rack9 and its owner as being culpable….the other story about a Liberal who was actually a big player in the controversy in the riding where this all began…that the NDP had been getting a whole shitload of funding illegally (funny, very little left wing rag coverage on that one)…and as yet, not ONE charge against the conservatives has bore any fruit….one would think that by now, Macleans and other leftwing rags would have moved on, licked and dressed the left wing hypocrisy wounds, and found something of merit.

    The LGR….let Quebec instil its own new registry on its own. And speaking of which, I still see some tools calling the Harper government totalitarians and fascists…funny…I never knew totalitarians gave back basic freedoms…they are known to take those freedoms away…much like Quebec seeks to strip its citizens of any rights like the LGR, or English Language equality. Speaking of which, Macleans is oddly quiet about the Quebec Provincial House’s lack of flying the Canadian Flag during the official opening today. And Mulcair seems to not care about that. Go figure.