To show the rest of Canada that he really does care about what the Opposition thinks, Jim Flaherty met today with John McCallum and Scott Brison of the Liberals, in order to get their input on how to solve the fiscal crisis. Both sides said it was a "professional" and "constructive" meeting, which I'm guessing means that Brison and Flaherty didn't get into a slap-and-hairpull fight like they've been threatening to across the Commons floor for a couple of weeks now. At the meeting, Brison and McCallum presented Flaherty with a list of demands, but paramount was one simple fact: we don’t trust your numbers.
You see, in the fall fiscal update, Flaherty included a number of pretty suspicious numbers in order to keep the books in the black – things like unspecified cuts to government programmes, and revenue from the sale of government assets, even though no assets have been sold, let alone has a list been drawn up of what would be considered for sale (in a buyer’s market no less). And Brison is having none of it.
Not only do they want the real numbers, but they also want the Deputy Minister of Finance to give a proper briefing to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and a multi-sector stimulus package on the table, and oh, they want it all by Friday. Otherwise, no dice, and Harper can kiss Liberal support for a budget goodbye.
So will we see Harper capitulating to this latest demand, and attempting to save his political skin for another few weeks? At this point, it’s not quite so far fetched.
Oh, and as for the auto sector bail out in Canada, Brison had more critical words for Flaherty and Tony Clement:
"The Canadian government's approach is after these discussions [in the U.S.] are over, Mr. Harper and Mr. Clement hope that somehow we're going to dovetail in and add on at the end and somehow we'll get good consideration in terms of jobs in Canada and in terms of product mandates," Brison said.
"And I think that's very naive."