The following letter to the editor is published in today’s edition (Saturday, Sept. 15th) of the Weekend Telegram.
Near the end of the last session of the House of Commons I stood in the chamber and quoted a constituent who said Stephen Harper “doesn’t know his arse from a hole in the ground.”
During the upcoming session I plan to make it my mission to teach the Prime Minister the difference.
When it comes to Newfoundland and Labrador, and indeed Atlantic Canada, the federal Conservative government either doesn’t understand our way of life, and our particular challenges, or doesn’t care.
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told the St. John’s Board of Trade this week that his government’s policies have achieved an economic “balance” across Canada.
But his Canada must not include the East Coast, where changes to the Employment Insurance system, and the potential elimination of the owner-operator, fleet-separation policy, would create an “imbalance,” further weakening our rural engine.
Changes to the EI system — to use a word from an EI claimant in touch with my office — “punish” seasonal workers, and will lead to further drain of the outports.
The not-so-hidden Conservative agenda is to starve people out of the bay in this province and Atlantic Canada.
For more proof look no further than the fact the Harper administration is still considering the elimination of the owner-operator/fleet-separation policy. Such a move would jeopardize the traditional inshore fishery, opening the door to corporate takeover.
Federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfied was quoted in the Sept. 6th Telegram as saying despite “overwhelming” feedback, a final decision still has yet to be made.
How much louder do Atlantic Canadians have to scream their opposition?
Until now, the one Newfoundland and Labrador issue that the Harper government could be counted on to deliver was a loan guarantee for the controversial Muskrat Falls development.
But the federal Finance Minister said this week — almost two years after the project’s term sheet was signed — that the “details” are still being worked on.
I don’t know about you, but that makes me nervous as hell — the Conservative devil is in the details.
The safety of Newfoundland and Labrador mariners will once again be front and centre in the Commons.
From the two-tier search and rescue response time for the military’s Gander-based Cormorant helicopters, to the unbelievable fact the Labrador-based Griffon helicopters don’t have de-icing capability, the Conservatives continue to put lives at risk.
As for “RePeter” Penashue, and his inability to speak when Harper drinks water, he’ll have some explaining to do regarding his election spending.
I apologized immediately for use of the “arse in the hole in the ground” quote at the end of the last session, but others, like the great Telegram columnist Ed Smith, would have taken a different course with the apology.
To quote Smith, “I apologize for saying the prime minister does not know his arse from a hole in the ground. I wish to retract that statement and say that in my view, the prime minister does know his arse from a hole in the ground because, having spent a goodly amount of time with his head stuck in both, he is eminently qualified to judge.”
Ryan Cleary is the Member of Parliament for St. John's South-Mount Pearl.