Stephen Harper discovers Ontario: Goar
(Written by Carol Goar) The biblical parable of the prodigal son
The moral of the story — to forgive those who treat you badly — is counterintuitive in this era of caustic partisanship but it is relevant, especially for Ontario.
Stephen Harper, like the prodigal son in the narrative, turned his back on the province of his birth 37 years ago. He became a proud westerner, adopting the anti-central-Canada mindset displayed by his Alberta compatriots. He changed parties — he was a Liberal in Ontario — and climbed the political ladder, eventually becoming prime minister. His goal was to make Canada a “global energy superpower.” His plan was to speed up the development of heavy oil and export Alberta’s black gold to a fuel-hungry world.
Of late, things haven’t been going well. Alberta’s petroleum is landlocked. Foreign buyers aren’t clamouring for Canada’s “dirty oil.” For the last seven months, international oil prices have been dropping, blowing a hole in Harper’s economic strategy and leaving Ottawa unexpectedly short of revenue.
Last week, the prime minister changed his tune . “The oil industry isn’t remotely the entire Canadian economy,” he told an audience in St. Catharines after the governor of the Bank of Canada had called the 57-per-cent drop in petroleum prices since last June “unambiguously negative for the Canadian economy.”
Finance Minister Joe Oliver echoed his boss’s message: “We have a highly diversified economy. The manufacturing sector is something that we are proud of and will continue to be important to the Canadian economy.”
Other members of cabinet and federal officials are signalling that Ontario will be the focus of the government’s spring budget. Manufacturers and exporters are already benefitting from the drop in oil prices and the value of the Canadian dollar. With a little help from Ottawa, they could generate enough growth to stave off a deficit and save Harper’s reputation as an astute economic manager. (Continued: Toronto Star)