Thursday, December 21, 2006

Trost Nobody

He may not quite be Stockwellian in terms of sheer detachment from reality. But Brad Trost nonetheless manages to make himself, his party and his presumptive provincial allies look bad in a single letter to the Leader-Post.

Trost opens with this:
In Murray Mandryk's column of Dec. 12, Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert quotes from my spring 2005 newsletter.

To be fair, readers should see the entire quote: "To the province of Saskatchewan this would mean $800 million a year according to Library of Parliament estimates. What could $800 million do for the province of Saskatchewan? What could it do for the people? What is it in practical, concrete terms? Let me give a couple of examples: Saskatchewan could have 260 MRI machines, which perhaps is too many, but the province could have them. It could have 26 four-lane bridges with full cloverleaf entrances. Again it is probably more than we need, but that is how many we could have."

Mandryk implied that I and other Conservative MPs have something to apologize for when we cited the above number ($800 million) as an example of what changes in the equalization formula could do for Saskatchewan. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In our election platform, we promised to remove natural resources from equalization and make a formula that was fair to the entire country. We will deliver on those promises. What number that will translate into for Saskatchewan on a year-by-year basis will of course vary -- something any intelligent person would understand.
Now, the context is indeed important - in showing just how implausible Trost's current claim is. In Trost's view, mentioning the "$800 million" figure twice, along with two concrete examples of what could be purchased with precisely $800 million, followed by the statement "that is how many we could have" under the policy change in supposed to add up to a declaration that his quote referred to "some yet-to-be-determined figure other than $800 million".

And in classic Con style, Trost then promptly backs up his nonsensical claim with the time-honoured tradition of insulting the intelligence of anybody who chose to read his previous words according to their actual meaning, rather than whatever interpretation is most favourable to the Cons at any given moment.

Next, Trost seems to want to make a point about the evils of socialism - but instead shows only that the Saskatchewan Party's usual bogeyman couldn't be any further from how the NDP actually governs Saskatchewan:
If the province of Saskatchewan is well managed and becomes one of Canada's wealthiest provinces, the province will not receive large equalization payments. However, if the premier were to follow a policy regime that is purely socialist, I am sure he could create a Saskatchewan recession -- one that would enable the province to receive considerably more than $800 million.
The "socialist" straw man is always a favoured one of the Sask Party as well. But given that the Calvert government currently has the province well on the positive side of the ledger and about as far as possible from a recession, Trost succeeds only in showing just how far the provincial NDP government is from the extreme that the Sask Party usually pretends it's arguing against.

Finally, having finished his attack on language, logic and some unspecified non-NDP socialist party, Trost mounts a full-on assault against reality:
(I)t should be noted that only the Conservatives are fighting for Saskatche-wan to receive the full benefits of its natural resources. The Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois are opposed to Saskatchewan receiving these benefits and the federal NDP has studiously avoided the issue. Calvert should be lobbying federal NDP Leader Jack Layton to support the Conservatives.
I'm not entirely sure just how unstudious Trost himself was and is in setting his frame of reference. But for a leader who's "studiously avoided" the issue of the equalization accord and/or formula sought by Calvert and promised by the Cons, Layton sure has a long history of pushing it in speeches, debates and the House of Commons.

In fairness, Trost's letter may accomplish something positive for his leader at least, showing just why PMS doesn't trust his MPs (and indeed changes the subject when asked about his supposed intention of empowering them). But if Saskatchewan's Con MPs don't have anything remotely useful or plausible to say when asked about their past commitments to the province, then Harper should rightly have a lot less of those sub-par MPs to keep in check after the next federal election.

Update: Saskatchewan's NDP has even more examples of Layton's involvement.

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