The cynical mind is the best predictor of Harper’s next move
A tale of two cities
Gord Henderson, Windsor Star
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2008
The outrageous stonewalling over the $30 million in federal assistance needed to reopen Ford of Canada's Essex Engine Plant speaks volumes about how out of touch with reality this government and its fat cat mandarins have become.
While Windsor sheds jobs and watches its best and brightest, not to mention its most desperate, pack up and move away, the Stephen Harper government is either taking its sweet time -- as in waiting for the next election campaign -- in deciding whether to invest in this no-brainer project or it's allowing brittle ideology to stand in the way of a common-sense decision that would give the Windsor area economy a badly needed boost.
If you believe Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's version of events, Harper has flatly rejected direct aid for the $300-million venture. If that's the case, one can only wonder: Do Harper and his minions have a clue how bad things are here? Do they give a damn? From the perspective of Ottawa, which is swimming in white-collar, tax-subsidized prosperity, it must be hard to fathom that the best of times don't extend to industrial centres like Windsor, which always made their money through honest toil.
How good is life in the capital? The Ottawa Citizen trumpeted last Friday that "Fat City" was back, with the capital region having increased its "core public administration" workforce by 12,800 jobs -- a staggering 20 per cent -- between 1995 and 2006. "If this keeps up, we may not swagger, but we may soon jiggle," boasted the paper as it happily described how the region "has been feasting at the buffet table while the rest of Canada has been on a diet" in terms of hiring civil servants.
Little wonder the Harper government and its senior bureaucrats aren't particularly interested in a massive plant and hundreds of jobs in Windsor. They're too busy padding payrolls in a capital region that just chalked up a record low unemployment rate of 4.5 per cent.
You know our problem? We're just Canadians who need a helping hand out here in the hinterland, and that's not nearly as sexy as dishing out cheques overseas.
A week before Christmas the feds announced a $300-million contribution to an international aid package aimed at building viable institutions for a future Palestinian state. That was welcome news for the Palestinians and perhaps for eventual peace in the Middle East.
But if Canada can find $300 million to pay the salaries of Palestinian policemen and bureaucrats, why on earth is it so difficult to come up with one-tenth of that amount to put hundreds of our own citizens back to work and restore hope in a downtrodden city?
Meanwhile, Ottawa doles out $60 million annually in foreign aid to support projects in the People's Republic of China. That's right. This global superpower and economic titan, the communist China that's eating our collective lunch while growing exponentially, is still on Ottawa's charity list.
They've wiped out industry after industry here with their cheap labour advantage and have piled up such massive surpluses that they can bail out major American banks, and yet Canadian aid dollars are still being funnelled into China.
They devastated our once prosperous Windsor tool and mould industry and are taking dead aim at our automobile market with dirt-cheap vehicles. And we respond by sending them money to build facilities like a grandiose ecology centre in remote Inner Mongolia that almost no one visits. And yet there's no investment money for badly needed Windsor industries? What madness is this?
Former agriculture minister Eugene Whelan, who played a key role in securing the engine plant as a member of the Trudeau cabinet, is appalled that Harper and company can't find $30 million for a new V-8 engine.
"That's chickenfeed. Just a pittance," scoffed Whelan. In essence he's right. The $68 million committed by his government and Queen's Park to win a 1978 bidding war with Ohio would be worth well over $200 million today.
The $30 million is just seed money. It would be returned to Ottawa many times over in payroll and corporate taxes. So what the hell is the problem?
The Harper regime is either thick as a brick in not seeing the need for competitive incentives or incredibly crass in holding those jobs hostage in order to make a good-news election announcement. Too late for that. The damage is done.
What a humiliation for lackluster Essex backbencher Jeff Watson and the other doomed Tory candidates in this area.
© The Windsor Star 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Posted by Fillibluster at 10:58 PM