Saturday, January 28, 2006

On issues that won't be ignored

Harper's plan to deal with equalization and federal/provincial relations later rather than sooner isn't much of a hit with Canada's premiers, who have good reason to want to get a deal done in the next year-plus:
There is...a sense of urgency among the premiers as the window of opportunity for an overarching fiscal deal may have a short timeframe. The window has been opened by the election of Harper, but it will be closed if Charest, who is trailing in the polls, loses the next Quebec election — expected in the spring of 2007 — to André Boisclair and the Parti Québécois.

As the other premiers see it, they aren't likely to be able to strike a deal with the separatists, whose objective is to leave Confederation, not fix it.

On the other hand, a new fiscal deal that is seen as beneficial to Quebec (as well as the other provinces) could help Charest remain in power.
Now, there's obviously some danger in trying to work out a deal too quickly. But that's only reason to make sure that as much concentrated effort as possible is applied to the issue now.

Given that there's a foreseeable endpoint on when a deal can get done, the only responsible course of action now is to make the fiscal imbalance an immediate priority - rather than something to be revisited at some point in the future when Quebec is unwilling to listen. And if Harper pushes forward on his personal priorities while trying to sweep the provinces' most important issue under the rug until it's too late, then some of the premiers who explicitly or implicitly endorsed him this time out may not be so friendly next time he goes to the polls.

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