Let's not waste a good crisis
Most Canadians probably expected that the premiers and territorial leaders would arrive for a meeting with the prime minister brandishing a long list of demands. And they wouldn't be wrong.
In fact, that is exactly what happened today when the country's leaders gathered for the first time since the global economic meltdown sent stocks into freefall and forced governments around the world to invest hundreds of billions of dollars on bank bailouts.
The premiers arrived in Ottawa with a long wish list. Among other things, it called for the Harper government to begin spending infrastructure money as quickly as possible and to change the rules requiring seniors to convert their RRSPs to income funds at age 71, so they would have more time to see their investments recover.
When they emerged from their private meeting, the premiers all said the exchange had been productive. They said there was an unprecedented spirit of co-operation around the table.
As Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty put it: "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn't use quite those words. In fact, he said the global economic crisis means ''business as usual, politics as usual'' is no longer acceptable.
All very laudable. But the PM was cautious about what his government will actually do in response to the suggestions he heard today.
He was supportive of the calls to speed up spending on infrastructure programs, less so on calls to change pension laws and non-committal on demands from McGuinty to provide more federal support to the country's staggering auto industry.
That means Canadians will have to wait to see whether these discussion produce tangible results or simply more business as usual.
— Chris Hall
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