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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

If it wasn’t so sad I'd be laughing

Hard on the heels of one Ontario minister, Dwight Duncan, dropping a bomb on the Stéphane Dion carbon tax, the Liberals have rushed another Ontario minister into the breach.

This time it’s Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Jim Watson who has been chosen to try to shore up the sagging fortunes of the left-wing Stéphane Dion Liberals.

“After almost three years in office, I can safely and sadly say that the Harper government has done virtually nothing to move the cities agenda forward,” Watson said in a breakfast address at the National Club on Bay St.

Is the minister confused or is he, in fact, calling for an end to the federal system of government we've enjoyed since, well, confederation. Why would it be Stephen Harper’s responsibility to “move the cities agenda forward?”

Municipalities are clearly a constitutional responsibility of the provinces. But the minister would not be a true Liberal if he were not trying to blame others for his own government’s failings. What’s next, should Stephen Harper be sending in a supervisory team to take control of the Toronto school board?

The Liberals see their election campaign slipping like a mudslide, and so they are desperately trying to shore up support in the cities that have long been their strongholds. The problem they have is that they have so little to point to that their party, federal or provincial, has done for cities that they have to turn negative and blame the Conservatives.

For a decade, the Liberal party in Ottawa allowed new immigrants to pour into Toronto without extending to that city the sort of federal support of new arrivals that is available to Quebec. In the last couple of years or so of their government, the Grits made an effort to finally do something about this, and Stephen Harper has not overturned those initiatives.

Toronto’s Mayor David Miller has criticized the McGuinty government’s 2007 budget. He said that that the province was refusing to “pay its bills,” and said that Toronto’s budgetary problems were the result of $500 million in social service costs mandated by the provincial government. And Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara declined to help the city to fix its $71 million budgetary shortfall. Mayor Miller has since moved to have the city sue the province over the shortfall.

Isn’t Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Jim Watson like a pot that’s trying to paint a kettle black to try to make them look the same?

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