Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ask and answer

In a more sane political environment, the NDP's list of conditions for supporting the 2011 federal budget would be seen as a modest, reasonable set of demands which any government would eagerly meet. But in this one, even though they likely make for the least the NDP can possibly justify asking for as the price of support, the odds of the Harper Cons actually going along with the proposals look to be slim to none.

Yes, the Cons were fairly slow to rule out increased pension benefits over the last year or so, waiting for Alberta to shoot down any proposal before doing so themselves. But they've since taken a firm public line that we have to avoid improving the CPP in order to save it. And the GIS has never apparently been on their radar, since it would involve what would likely turn into a permanent improvement in the type of social benefit that the Cons most loathe.

On eliminating the HST from home heating costs, the Cons have conspicuously avoided any substantive response to a proposal that the NDP has worked hard to sell over the course of the fall.

And on a home retrofitting tax credit, the Cons have already rejected the NDP's entreaties in last year's budget - even though the proposal makes for nothing but a slightly more environmentally friendly recasting of part of the Cons' much-ballyhooed economic action plan.

So while the NDP's laundry list may serve as a starting point if the Cons are particularly desperate to avoid an election, I wouldn't see much prospect of it serving as the basis for a budget otherwise - particularly when Harper can buy off the Bloc for a one-time payment to Quebec without doing anything to increase the scope of any social program in the long term.

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