By guest blogger Nicole Walyshyn
Just how much trouble is Stephen Harper in in Alberta? To judge by a recent public meeting in Calgary, mucho. Calgary Southeast MP and Harper very-right-hand man Jason Kenney held a forum for his constituents Saturday night, and it turned out a lot of them are still extremely browned-off about the Conservatives’ decision to tax income trusts. You know things are going badly when an MP says of the people who elected him: “I wish I had brought some Valium for my friends here.”
Kenney tried to write off the uproar by suggesting “There’s a certain group of people who are heavily vested in the income trusts who are understandably concerned.” In other words, gripesters. However, when the gripesters are the sort of people who have the means to be vested in an income trust, you don’t want to be making snide remarks about their medication needs.
The Canadian Association of Income Tax Investors has mounted a hardcore advertising campaign against the change, under the slogan “Lie. Conceal. Fabricate.” My favourite part of their well-pitched website is Freedom of Information Flaherty Style 1 and 2, which illustrates graphically, in all senses, the limits of the Access of Information Act.
Of course, it’ll take more than a good advertising campaign to create serious problems for Harper’s government. Or will it? Some of Kenney’s respondents told him they’d lost $25,000 because of the government’s decision. John Deilwart, co-chair for the Coalition of Canadian Energy Trusts, told The Calgary Herald: “The level of arrogance on a file like this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.” When Albertans start talking bucks, of which they lost a lot during the days of the National Energy Program, and using words like “arrogance,” which in the Big Book of Alberta Synonyms means “Trudeau,” watch out.
That’s why Stephane Dion’s deal with Elizabeth May, roundly criticized by old-school Liberals and dullard newspapers, may be smarter than conventional wisdom allows. If Harper starts bleeding votes in Alberta (where they’re also still fuming about that “nation within a nation concept”), Dion might pick up most of them by aligning with the cause de jour. And, lacking the sort of charisma that keeps the Liberal vote from going to the NDP in BC, it’s probably his only chance to hang onto many of his ridings there.
Jason Kenney says there’ll be no government flip-flop on the income trust issue. “It’s never too late to do the right thing,” says John Deilwart. Or the politically expedient one, as we may eventually see.