3 min

An extra $3 billion in padding

Raise your hand if you didn’t see this one coming – the Liberals and Conservatives are bickering over the costs for their EI proposals. The Conservatives’ publicly released figures saying that the Liberal proposals would cost more than $4 billion a year to implement. The Liberals say that they calculated the cost to be just over a billion dollars. Quite the discrepancy, no?

Well, as it turns out, the Conservatives may have been padding their numbers – adding in new entrants to the work force, re-entrants and those receiving things like maternity leave benefits – which actually has nothing at all what the plan they’re discussing. Oh, and the Liberal numbers were backed up by independent analysis by groups like TD Economics back in April. So whose numbers are you likely to trust?

But this all goes back to the electoral and political game that we all know this whole EI “working group” exercise really is. The Conservatives are doing everything in their power – and stretching the truth as far as they possibly can to the point of outright distortion – to paint the Liberals as tax-and-spenders who have no regard for the pocketbooks of you, the average Canadians, while they paint themselves as the fiscally prudent defenders of the economy – even though they’ve proven themselves to be entirely the opposite. (In fact, given how bad they are at figuring out their own deficit, why should we trust their EI figures?)

But are the Liberals actually fighting back on this? That’s the real question politically. So far they’ve let the Conservatives distort the truth while they continued to play the game of taking the high road and Making Parliament Work™, insisting with every last breath that they don’t want an election. But where is that getting them? I know people behind the scenes who are urging them to take a stronger line against it, and yesterday looks like it might just have been the opening salvo of the retaliatory strike. Will it derail the “working group” immediately, or are they going to draw out its eventual demise, like Desdemona’s death in Othello? Will it all degenerate into an actual slap-and-hair-pull fight? My guess is they need to draw it out for a couple more weeks, to get closer to September, but after that all bets are off.

The Premiers met yesterday, and discussed ways to modernise the EI system (many talking points the federal Liberals happily rattled off to back up their cause), the need to take a closer look at a looming pension crisis, as well as the H1N1 outbreak. They’ll continue their meetings tomorrow, where the topic will likely be the “Buy American” provisions in the States. At least Charest is calling a spade a spade and pointing out that Obama hasn’t been living up to his promise to abide by trade agreements. But I still don’t hear any word of a federal government presence there – though that’s not exactly a surprise at this point.

More bad news for the proposed plan to drop the “New” from the “New Democratic Party.” On top of it being a blatant Obama hanging-on, it seems that the French initials would be rather unfortunate. Those initials – PD for Parti Démocratique – sound a lot like “pédé,” the rather offensive term for gays, which is short for “pédéraste.” It certainly invokes memories of the “Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party” – or CCRAP – as it was briefly known. That name only lasted about 48 hours, but the memory lives on. Will the NDP avoid a similar fate?

Yesterday was Hiroshima Day. The Green Party put out a release calling for nuclear disarmament, but I didn’t see one from any other party. One would have thought that at least the NDP would be all over that. Someone in communications must be either asleep at the switch or on holidays.

Up today: The Commons industry committee is holding an emergency meeting on the sale of Nortel’s assets, for all the good that will do.

Also this weekend: Harper departs for Guadalajara, Mexico, to attend the North American Leaders’ Summit.