Norm & Loyola

On the front page of today's Post (the link doesn't appear to be behind a subscribers-only wall, for now at least) is a story about Norm Doyle and Loyola Hearn, and the fix they're in over the budget.

Basically, the enabling legislation for the NS-NL-Canada deal over offshore oil royalties (commonly called the "Atlantic Accord") has been tied into the overall budget legislation. Despite various efforts, the Liberals (and, as far as I can tell, the Liberals alone) have stymied efforts to move the Atlantic Accord out of the budget, and treat it as a separate item.

Apparently, such machinations are a-ok when the Liberals' corporate tax cuts are at risk, but not insofar as the Atlantic Accord is concerned.

So, Norm Doyle and Loyola Hearn are in a hell of a fix. If they vote down the budget, they risk losing their seats. If they don't, they could end up ensuring the survival of the Liberal government until at least the fall.

Full disclosure: While I am not that important at all in the grand Tory scheme of things, I do know both Norm and Loyola fairly well. Indeed, before moving to Hogtown, I was on Norm's riding association in St John's East. So aside from my political biases, I have a personal interest in their fate.

Even leaving that aside, their loss would be felt by the CPC. Loyola, who served as one of the 3 PC Party "ambassadors" during the merger negotiations with the CA, would be a shoo-in to be a minister in any future CPC government.

Norm, while having a lower profile in Ottawa, is the current CPC caucus chairman and epitomises the definition of a "good constituency man", and has a savvy political instinct. (One example: as a former NL provincial MHA and cabinet minister, Norm has a fairly hefty provincial pension. Ever since getting elected in '97, he has donated that pension to various charities. It was/is the right thing to do, and it didn't exactly hurt him politically, either.)

I empathize with their situation. Leaving aside the partisan fallout, the Atlantic Accord provides a significant amount of promise for both NL and NS. For years, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians (and presumably, Nova Scotians) have seen our natural resources used for short-term political purposes, rather than as a foundation for long-term success. The near-death of the inshore fishery is one result (although to be fair, there were a number of factors involved in that crisis). The money that NL and NS will see as a result of the accord can, as I've indicated in my "King John" post below, be used to address some of these systemic problems.

I truly believe that the Atlantic Accord could be our best, if not our last, chance to make structural, long-term changes to NL to ensure that it thrives, rather than simply survives, in the future. Many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians feel the same way, which is why there was so much support for Danny Williams's campaign last December/January, even if the "flag flap" outraged Canadians elsewhere.

So, what do Norm and Loyola do? As much as it kills me to say this, knowing the trouble it may cause, I would have to suggest that they vote to defeat this budget. Why?

1. Even if this budget dies, the Libs, CPC and the NDP have all pledged their support to the Altantic Accord. This is not a government priority that won't be re-introduced if the Tories win the election.

2. The budget has been twisted from something that the CPC could support (even at some political cost), to a Jack-and-Buzz document. It's one thing to compromise; it is another thing to completely abandon the principles that your party stands for.

3. To allow this budget to stand will likely result in giving Paul Martin at least a few more months to run across the country with his chequebook, as he abuses (in my opinion) his office during an unofficial 8-month long election campaign.

4. They say that the truth is the first casualty of war, and that goes for politics, too, but here are a few facts: (a) The Altantic Accord issue could have been dealt with years ago; John Hamm in particular has been banging this drum for a long time. (b) Paul Martin could have honoured his election promise earlier in his mandate - instead, he had to be pushed and pushed hard by a number of sources, including Norm and Loyola and the rest of the CPC caucus. (c) Once the Atlantic Accord was signed, it didn't have to be bundled into the budget. (d) As the corporate tax issue shows, just because something is in the budget now, doesn't mean it can't be "un-bundled" and dealt with separately; only Liberal cunning and intransigence is preventing this issue from being dealt with now. If there's any justice, these facts will be trumpeted "loud and long", and will begin to sink in.

Now, it's easy for me, sitting in front of a computer in Toronto, to pontificate. I know that. (Not like it's stopped me or anyone else on the internet from pontificating, but in any event ...) Norm and Loyola have been in this business as active players longer than I have been a mere observer. They will make their decisions, and things will play out however they play out as a result.

But even though it may be cold/no comfort, I can empathize with the fix they are in. This is what Liberals do - put people in a politically hot corner, and force them to choose between 2 bad options - and they are very good at it. If Norm and Loyola decide to run the risk of punishment at the polls to vote down a bad budget, and to remove a poor government - well, my respect, and the respect of other conservatives, probably won't help, but that respect will have been well earned.

More later.


At 9:09 a.m., Blogger Mark said...

Jason, you echo my sentiments almost exactly.


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