Friday, February 17, 2006

More would-be equals

The Cons' task in trying to please everybody with a new equalization deal just got even tougher, as municipalities have chimed in seeking more money in the "fiscal imbalance" negotiations:
A letter addressed to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities during the campaign identifies the fiscal imbalance as a priority for Mr. Harper, who vows immediately upon being elected to "begin consultations with both the provinces and municipal representatives" with a goal of reaching a long-term agreement addressing the fiscal imbalance.

(The members of FCM's Big City Mayors Caucus) said they fully support the Prime Minister's priority. They announced an internal working group comprising the mayors of Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, London and Halifax to study the question of the fiscal imbalance as it relates to cities. The working group will report back in early June.

"Mr. Harper's focus on the fiscal imbalance is a significant development," said Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay. "The cities need modern fiscal tools to play their role fully as engines of economic growth and prosperity, while respecting the jurisdiction of all orders of government."...

"Cities were successful in achieving funding for public transit and infrastructure because we worked closely with the federal government," said Toronto Mayor David Miller. "We need to continue that partnership and we have the perfect opportunity to make it happen. We're looking forward to working with Mr. Harper to fix the fiscal imbalance so our cities' needs can be met."
Suffice it to say that given the Cons' well-known promise not to leave any province worse off than before a new round of negotiations. And with cities now also seeking a substantial piece of the pie, there's no way for the Cons to get any deal done with the pittance budgeted for the "fiscal imbalance".

Harper's choice now is between turning prominent provincial and municipal politicians against him, or blowing a massive hole in the federal budget to try to keep everybody happy. And either way, equalization looks like it's going to be a disaster for Harper's effort to portray his party as a responsible government.

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