Friday, September 12, 2008

Nfld. Premier Danny Williams fights for province as Sask. Premier Brad Wall betrays his; Pro-Harper CanWest newspapers mostly ignore Williams' warning

“You won’t hear Stephen Harper admit he may win a majority government because he is terrified that people might stop and actually start to think about the consequences.”
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams tore a strip of Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Sept. 10, but most CanWest newspapers west of Ontario either buried or ignored the story.

In a nationally televised address to the St. John’s Board of Trade Williams said that even another minority Conservative government would be ruinous for Canadians.

“If [he] is prepared to slash program spending when he has large surpluses and break his written word as the leader of a minority government, the future of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians — and indeed all Canadians — will be very bleak under a Conservative majority,” Williams said.

A Progressive Conservative, Williams attacked Harper as a “fraud” and the architect of a “right-wing Conservative-Reform party” who has broken written promises from previous election campaigns since the Conservatives came to power in 2006.

“A majority government for Stephen Harper would be one of the most negative political events in Canadian history,” Williams warned.

“Even without a majority, he has cut funding for minorities, cut funding for literacy, cut funding to students, volunteers, museums and arts and culture groups right across the country [and] his government cut funding to women’s groups and … actually went so far as to remove the federal mandate to advance equality for women,” Williams said.

“This all happened under a minority government. What in heaven’s name will happen if he gets a majority?” [Harper dangerous even with another minority government: Williams (CBC News, Sept. 10, 2008)]

In the article Majority for Tories would be ‘disaster’ (Toronto Star, Sept. 11, 2008) The Canadian Press’s Tara Brautigam reported that Williams has repeatedly criticized Harper after Ottawa refused to live up to a federal election promise to fully remove non-renewable resource revenues in a new equalization formula. The decision will cost the province $10 billion, Williams says, citing an economist’s research.

“The only reason we haven’t seen his full plan for Canada implemented is because he had a minority government to keep him in check,” Williams said in his address to the business group.

“I can only say this, and I say it with all sincerity and genuine concern for our great country: a majority government for Stephen Harper would be one of the most negative political events in Canadian history.”

Not letting up Williams went on to say “This is a federal government willing not only to break their own promises, but they go so far as to break their own laws and call an election even though they mandated fixed election dates.”

“There is nothing Harper will not do in order to win a majority government. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a party who purportedly offered a terminally ill MP a life insurance policy to get his vote,” he continued, referring to the so-called Chuck Cadman affair.

“How low can you go?”

In stark contrast to Williams’ fighting spirit is Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall who before the Nov. 2007 provincial election promised to fight the federal government on equalization, but since becoming premier has broken his word to the people of Saskatchewan.

While in opposition Wall continually blasted former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin over equalization demanding a fair deal, but once the Harper Conservatives took over in Jan. 2006, Wall’s tough talk began to dissipate. Following the Saskatchewan provincial on Nov. 7, 2007, he all but disappeared. In fact, he’s now turned his attention back to the federal Liberals and is backing Harper in a fight against Stephane Dion’s Green Shift plan as if it would be the end of civilization as we know it.

Considerable concern has been raised over the closeness of Wall’s right-wing Saskatchewan Party to the Conservative Party of Canada and the unsettling influence that seems to have resulted. In Jan. 2008, Prime Minister Harper asked Premier Wall to drop the province’s equalization court challenge that had been filed by the previous NDP government. In July 2008, Wall dutifully complied.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed either that the Saskatchewan Party have a presence in the 2008 federal election with long time party member Kelly Block running as the Conservative candidate in the riding of Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar and former party president Michelle Hunter in Wascana.

The pro-Harper bias of the CanWest newspaper chain was evident on Sept. 11, 2008, as a number of its dailies west of Ontario seemed to be ignoring the Williams story.

The Edmonton Journal offered the most coverage with a 345-word piece while the Vancouver Sun provided substantially less coverage with 108 word story. It appears the Victoria Times Colonist and Calgary Herald published nothing.

The National Post all but buried the story on Page A5 under the heading Campaign In Brief allotting a mere 104 words to the Williams address under the negative title Department of Long-Standing Grudges.

It should be noted that the National Post has twice endorsed Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper for Prime Minister, once on June 23, 2004 and again on Jan. 19, 2006. There is little reason to believe that the Post won’t be supporting Harper again this time around.

In Saskatchewan, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post ran the same story by StarPhoenix reporter James Wood, which was less about Williams and more about Wall and his MLAs not wanting to fight with Harper.

“It’s up to them,” said Wall of the Newfoundland plan.

“They’re going to make decisions on this federal election. All the people of Canada, the people in Newfoundland, the people in our province will hopefully make decisions based on which party is offering the best plan for them in their jurisdiction.

“They’re certainly free to make whatever decision they want in that regard.”

Saskatchewan’s dispute with Ottawa over equalization stemmed from a centrepiece of the Conservative campaign promise in the 2006 federal election, a promise to pull non-renewable resource revenues from the equalization funding formula to match side deals given to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

That would have meant an additional $800 million in federal funding annually for Saskatchewan.

The Conservatives did implement such a policy but also unexpectedly applied a cap that meant Saskatchewan received $227 million in equalization last year and none in this budget.

Eleven Sask. Party MLAs are Conservative members, according to disclosure documents filed with the legislature.

Sask. Party ministers approached after a cabinet meeting at the legislature on Wednesday [Sept. 10] aren’t interested in a fight over equalization.

“That ship has sailed a long time ago, frankly,” said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Bill Boyd. [Sask. not up for fight (StarPhoenix, Sept. 11, 2008)]

Not mentioned in Woods’ story is that Wall’s refusal to fight was breaking a promise he made to the people of Saskatchewan when he was in opposition. The space devoted to Williams specifically and what he said amounted to less than 100 words.

Disturbingly, the StarPhoenix and Leader-Post appear to be Saskatchewan Party supporters. In 2000 each newspaper donated $10,000 to the party.

The newspapers are owned by Canwest Publishing Inc., a subsidiary of Canwest Global Communications Corp.

The Saskatchewan Party 2007 Registered Political Party’s Fiscal Period Return filed with Elections Saskatchewan show that last year CanWest Global Communciations Corp. president and CEO Leonard Asper contributed $5,000 to the Saskatchewan Party as did CanWest MediaWorks Inc., also a subsidiary of CanWest Global.

It seems clear why the Conservative Party of Canada and the Saskatchewan Party receive more favourable treatment by CanWest newspapers.


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