Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Ottawa: the healthy scratch

So Québec, along with Ville du Québec, are able to go ahead with a new Colisée on their own after all. Whether Gary Bettman cares or not is a whole other matter!

Who’s offside in this whole mini-drama? Who scores the biggest? Has Harper incurred a 2-minute minor for delay of game? Will Duceppe get his own 2-minute minor for (attempted) too many men on the ice? Are there any other bad hockey-politics metaphors we can use?

On balance, it’s probably a minor loss for the Tories – they’ll win some relief in the West, where Ottawa faced “Québec-pandering” allegations should they have ponied up muiltimillions for a new arena (one with only the most speculative of potential uses) in La Belle Province. But, in a way, so what? Harper can (and does) pretty much anything he wants, and it doesn’t send Western Conservatives running to other parties with new affections.

But of course, it may hurt the CPC around Québec City, where they’ve only been holding onto seats by their toe-picks, and the BQ will salivate at the prospect of retrieving those seats now.

This doesn’t make it a clear win for the Bloc more broadly, though. Duceppe’s front-and-centre rationale for his party is to leverage more fiscal goodness out of Ottawa, or else “referendum-times-are-here-again.” There are vulnerabilities to such a platform. On the arena front, he’s failed in this game, and has consequently laid bare the fact that two levels of government (municipal and provincial) were, all along, enough to finance the proposed arena. Putting Ottawa on the hotseat for this was just guffery and bluffery. Will souvereigntistes lose face?

It was always ironic that the Bloc could, in the very same breath, profess both the viability of Québec’s national independence, while also insisting that Ottawa’s help was absolutely indispensable in building so much as an ice rink. Now, Duceppe might be better able to quell that irony and spin this as: “You see? Who needs Ottawa? Not us!”

So, it appears the CPC and the Bloc both wobble and gain in minor amounts here. It might all have been quite different if the Liberals had been bolder and clearer earlier. Imagine if the Liberals had made a clear case from the start, saying “it would be fiscal madness for the government to start building NHL rinks, especially for cities with no prospect of getting NHL teams.” Today, they’d be in the position of saying “They’re building it on their own, that’s great, good luck to them. It’s all working out the way we would have hoped, and we didn’t spend six-months dithering over mixed messages like the Harperites did.”

Oh well. Perhaps there is still room for Ignatieff to use this whole story in an accusatory narrative whereby the government is suffering from policy drift, suffering from acute shruggery, and not knowing what it’s going to do next, or how. Harper as Darryl Sutter, if you like? (is that unsportsmanlike?)

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Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , ,

A page from Maxime’s book?

“Money doesn’t grow on trees” – Maxime Bernier’s come out swinging against the Colisée funding proposal – I can’t help but wish the Liberals had taken the same position.

If they had, they’d have come off as 1) the sensible economists with a masterplan, versus the spendthrift, giddy, erratic Conservatives, and 2) ballsy enough to be able to say no to Québec projects once in a while. And I don’t think that would have cost them dramatically in la Belle Province… like anyone, the Québécois can appreciate that Ottawa isn’t really there to build NHL rinks.

Ignatieff came out of the summer bus tour full of piss and vinegar, sleeves rolled up, and with a mean glint in his eye. It was good. The Liberals need now to follow through with tough, united, defensible opposition to dumb Harper moves like this – not seem cowed into agreement, for fear of what retribution opposition might bring.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , ,

The Conservatives’ latest own goal

Curiouser and curiouser. We know the extent to which Stephen Harper drives for total message control – so the sight of a group of Québec Conservative MPs in Nordique jerseys and thumbs up could mean (at least) one of two things:

1) Harper’s sanctioned funding for a new Colisée already – out of panicked desperation for something “feel-good” he can do, but we all see it’s another sign he’s lost his supposed “shrewdness” and is blowing any remaining reputation as someone committed to fiscal restraint during a time of deficit, or

2) J.-P. Blackburn and his Québec colleagues are going a bit rogue here – trying to force the PMO’s hand by whipping up Québec excitement in advance of a decision. A new sign of party rifts.

Either way, Harper now seems damned whatever he does. He’ll infuriate most of Canada if federal funding goes ahead for it, and he’ll humiliate his Québec caucus (along with any tentative voter support in Quebec) if he doesn’t. He’ll violently confuse his Reformer base if he’s seen freewheeling on a bread-and-circuses agenda and kissing boots in Québec while taking the west for granted, but equally he’ll come off as indecisive and not in control if he backs away from this now.

Perhaps there will be a national programme for arena development, so that the Québec pandering charge loses its stick. But does he really want to come off as a Johnny-Manley-come-lately?

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , ,

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