Friday, March 06, 2009

On media, and tone

If you follow my little blog, you know I've been following the dramedy around the Conservatives' $3 billion slush fund and the Liberal push to have some very reasonable accountability measures attached to it. Basically, tell us what government departments will be able to draw on the billions, and then when you draw on the fund, tell us where, why, and how much. Seems reasonable, no?

Not to the Conservatives. First, they announced their opposition to the Liberal motion before they even read it. Now they're ratcheting-up the election talk and lying left, right and centre to Canadians.

*They say the opposition wants approval on every project, that's a lie. We're just asking for immediate reporting, not approval. They really should get around to actually reading the motion.

*They say the opposition is delaying passage of the bill and projects will go unfunded, and that's a lie. This is 08-09 money that can't legally be spent until April 1st anyway, there's four weeks still to get this sorted out. And they haven't even introduced the interim supply bill that would authorize this money yet.

What's more, the Conservatives have billions in infrastructure funding on the books from LAST YEAR's budget they haven't bothered to spend yet, money that could go to fund needed infrastructure projects. Money that will go back into the general coffers at the end of the month, masking the size of the Conservative budget deficit instead of benefiting Canadians as intended.

Anyway, that's a long way to say I've been following this whole dramedy closely. Which is why I was surprised and annoyed to read this headline this afternoon from CP:

Liberals tone down election talk, seek compromise on stimulus fund
Say what? Election talk, toning down? Compromise, they seek? Backing down, Liberals are? Very annoyed, I was! Then read the article, I did:
OTTAWA — Liberals are dialing down the volume on spring election speculation.

Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale says his party is not seeking a confrontation with the Tory government over a $3-billion fund aimed at quickly stimulating the sputtering economy.

The Liberals plan to table a motion Monday calling on the government to detail how the money is to be spent.

But Goodale says they won't debate the motion or force a vote on it until late March, giving Liberals and Conservatives several more weeks to reach a compromise.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the fund is a matter of confidence in his minority government and has warned that opposition parties will find themselves in an election if they don't approve it.

Reading the story shows that, in fact, if you've been paying attention there's been absolutely no change in the Liberal position. Nothing has been toned down. We were never seeking confrontation. We were never banging the election drum. That was our friends in Conservativeland.

The Liberal position has been consistent: we want to get this money flowing, but there needs to be some basic accountability measures attached. Stephen Harper needs to stop with the bellicose rhetoric, come to the table and work this out with the opposition like a responsible adult.

That's what Michael Ignatieff said in his presser Tuesday, that's what John McCallum said when he introduced the motion Wednesday, and that's what Ralph Goodale said today. One clear, consistent message all along: Canadians want us to act like adults, so let's give it a try.

While the Liberals try to make Parliament work for Canadians, we've got one party that opposes motions without reading them and another that opposes budgets before they're written. It's hard to be the only adults in the sandbox sometimes.

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