PoV: Liberal promises like disappearing ink – by Brian MacLeod (Sudbury Star – May 3, 2014)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Want proof that the money the Liberals have offered in the budget, especially in the North, is just fleeting words?

It’s buried in the budget document released Thursday. It’s not in the speech, but it is mentioned in the budget document itself.

It’s the reference to the $1 billion the province “committed” to infrastructure to develop the giant Ring of Fire chromite and metals deposit in the James Bay lowlands.

“Committing up to $1 billion towards infrastructure development for the ring of fire contingent on matching investment by the federal government,” the budget document reads.

That word — contingent — was nowhere to be found in Monday’s original announcement. Three cabinet ministers got together in Thunder Bay and, led by Northern and Development Minister Michael Gravelle, announced $1 billion to develop the Ring of Fire. Granted, Gravelle spent much of the press conference beseeching the federal government for money, but the impression from the presentation was that the $1 billion was there, hard cash, ready to go when the actual nature of the infrastructure – east-west route, rail or road — was ready to go.

The news release accompanying Monday’s announcement pointedly did not mention that the province’s money was contingent upon matching federal funds, though it did look in that direction.

The $1-billion investment by the province is “absolutely a commitment we expect to be matched by the federal government,” Gravelle said Monday.

Expect. Not contingent.

“We are committed to driving progress and investing in infrastructure development in Northern Ontario’s economy,” finance Minister Charles Sousa’s quote read in a news release. “We are looking to the federal government to match our commitment of $1 billion.
Looking to. Not contingent.

Such is the nature of carefully crafted messages around budget time — especially when the budget is likely to spawn an election, which we now know is set for June 12.

You have to read the fine print.

Sousa did tell the Toronto Star on Monday — only in response to an e-mail question — that the money was “contingent on Ottawa matching the funds,” but that stipulation wasn’t in the announcement.

One can argue that this kind of thing is “de rigueure” politics around election time, when money is thrown around and pressure is placed on other governments to “come to the table.”

But the words matter in these announcements. Federal Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford — who is in charge of the Ring of Fire file — told the Toronto Star that Ottawa won’t simply smack $1 billion down on the table. The province would have to apply to its Building Canada Fund for money.

Neither can Greater Sudbury get too excited about the budget’s pledge to spend $26.7 million to expand Maley Drive. That, too, is contingent on matching funds from the municipality and the federal government. The city would likely come up with the money, but the request has been ignored for years by Ottawa. There is no sign of a change of heart.

We’re going to see more of this during this election campaign. We must remember that a commitment is a promise is a maybe.

For the original version of this article, click here: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2014/05/03/pov-liberal-promises-like-disappearing-ink

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