I read the news today, oh boy

Stephen Harper recently suggested the fixed election date law he passed does not apply to minority governments.

Stephen Harper recently suggested the fixed election date law he passed does not apply to minority governments.

Why, then, did the minority Harper government announce the fixed date of the next federal election was October 19, 2009?

Food poisoning

An election, should one be called, would do much to obscure troubling headlines pulled from today’s Globe and Mail.

Amid a nationwide listeria outbreak from tainted meats packaged at Maple Leaf Foods comes news Canadian government and industry officials were frustrated by tough standards the US was insisting Canadian plants observe.

American officials wanted Canadian plants to conduct daily inspections and to test meat for listeria monocytogenes.

Instead, federal officials lobbied the US to adopt less stringent Canadian standards.

And, on March 31, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency eliminated inspection reports and packing plant rankings.

Why?

The Canadian Meat Council didn’t like that such reports often landed in reporters’ hands through access to information requests, according to a Globe and Mail story on Friday.

So the council lobbied the Harper government, successfully, to end the 20-year-old reporting and rankings system.

So far, the Listeria outbreak has been linked to the death of 15 Canadians nationwide.

Soft economy

Throughout the first two quarters of this year, Canada showed the weakest economic growth in 17 years.

While corporate profits rose 8.3 per cent, driven by record high oil and agriculture commodity prices, exports — especially lumber and automobiles —fell roughly five per cent from a year ago.

“People talk about a technical recession,” said Harper, a trained economist, from Inuvik. “Even if that’s true, I don’t think it’s a real recession.”

Many hoped Harper’s northern tour would bring promises of road, port or other infrastructure announcements.

Instead, he announced Ottawa wanted to track pollution farther from shore, pushing monitoring out 200 nautical miles from land.

Harper’s tour follows a string or re-announcements visiting federal ministers have made over the last couple of months.

All of which suggests Harper’s government has little spending room available.

Two years ago, Canada posted a multi-billion-dollar surplus.

Since its election in 2006, the Harper government has systematically cut taxes and increased spending on the military and domestic security.

As a result of the slowing economy, Canada could be in a deficit position within two years, said Bay Street economists interviewed by Canwest News Service.

Shady dealings

Finally, the RCMP are investigating a real-estate deal involving the Kevlar Group, a firm associated with Julie Couillard, ex-girlfriend of former Foreign Affairs minister Maxime Bernier and ministerial adviser Bernard Cote, who worked for then-minister of Public Works Michael Fortier.

Both Cote and Bernier lost their jobs through their association with Couillard, a Kevlar real-estate agent.

Both men have admitted Couillard discussed the Quebec City land deal with them.

Kevlar’s first bid on the project was rejected. The Harper government then changed the bid specifications, allowing Kevlar to submit a new one.

RCMP have contacted federal officials about the bid, the Globe reported Friday.

The land deal was cancelled by the Harper government on Thursday.

Police are also asking questions about Diane Bellemare, Couillard’s mother, who was appointed to the Employment Insurance Board of Referees by cabinet in August 2007.

All of which should give Canadians much to consider entering a federal election.

Unfortunately, elections are terrible forums to explore complicated legal and economic issues.

And that may, in fact, be the reason we’re facing one. (Richard Mostyn)

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