Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Stephen Harper: Spurning the Provinces

Stephen Harper not a leader.

Image constructed using KolourPaint, with Harper
photo from "Stephen Harper's solution" ad.
The Council of the Federation, a meet up of Premiers, is taking place in Halifax from today to July 27. The meeting will include:


  • A working group on healthcare innovation chaired by the Premiers of Saskatchewan and PEI. 
  • A working group on the fiscal effects of changes in federal funding for healthcare chaired by Greg Selinger. 
  • (Possibly) Concerns that Harper's Dumb on Crime legislation will be pricey for the the provinces. 
Founded in 2003, the Council of Federation was devised to improve federal-provincial relations and coordinate policy amongst the provinces. The Kelowna Accord was supported by the council, signed by Paul Martin, and scraped by the CONs (with current Manitoba PC leadership hopeful Brian Pallister voting against a bill to implement it). A 2004 deal between the Provinces and the Liberal Government of Paul Martin was hammered out after Premiers formed a unified front at the Council of Federation. These meetings are a pretty big deal when it comes to public policy that impacts Canadians from coast to coast to coast. 

Prime Ministers aren't members of the council, unlike Premiers, but can be invited. Stephen Harper has rejected an invite for a third straight year. CON strategist and Summa Strategies VP Tim Powers claims that Council of the Federation meetings are just about political theatre and beating up on the PM. 
Image Source: Change the Topic

If that's the case then why are corporate lobbyists flocking to the meeting? 

There will be 14 "sponsors" of the meeting, paying between $10, 000 and $50, 000 for access to Premiers

Corporate giants from big oil, big pharma, electricity, and biotech will be flocking to the meeting. Canada's National Brewers, Irving Shipbuilding, Encana (natural gas corporation), the Canadian Pharmacists Association, and the Canadian Electricity Association are some sponsors. The sole platinum sponsor ($50,000) is the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada. 

Corporations don't pay for events like this unless they think they can sway public policy for private gain. This is a nasty means of financing quasi-governmental meetings, especially given how corporate money has utterly corrupted US politics.

But it still serves to indicate that the meeting is more than posturing, contrary to what CON hacks would say.

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